Tennis: Heat melts Erakovic's chances

By Michael Brown, Dave Worsley

Marina Erakovic struggles in the 41C temperatures. Photo / Getty Images
Marina Erakovic struggles in the 41C temperatures. Photo / Getty Images

Two days ago Marina Erakovic produced one of the best performances of her career but followed it up yesterday with one of her worst.

The New Zealand No1 was ousted from the second round of the Australian Open by Kazakhstan's Zarina Diyas 6-4, 6-0 in only 74 minutes.

Her day then finished late at night as she also lost her doubles encounter with Chinese partner Jie Zheng to cap off a day to forget. The 10th seeds went down 6-3 6-3 to French duo Caroline Garcia and Alize Cornet.

The doubles match started at around 6.30pm after being delayed with the heat ruled and finished at around 10.30pm after lightning and rain delayed it further.

Perhaps Erakovic summed up the conditions in Melbourne with one simple quote. "It's just the weirdest weather ever," she said.

Her opening match of the day was a massive opportunity missed by Erakovic.

Diyas is ranked 152 in the world, 100 places lower than the Kiwi, and came through qualifying. It was also Diyas' first appearance at a grand slam tournament and the 20-year-old has spent most of her career playing in the second-tier ITF circuit after an unspectacular junior career.

Erakovic might not have a better chance to progress to the third round of the Australia Open, especially after she toppled 21st seed Sorana Cirstea 6-4, 7-6 in her first outing. The 25-year-old labelled that performance her best in Melbourne but quickly followed that high with one of her lows - one of her goals for this year was to be more consistent.

Last year she had a great chance to progress to the fourth round of a grand slam tournament for the first time but went down to Great Britain's Laura Robson after serving for the match.

Yesterday's match against Diyas started in sweltering 39C temperatures on court 13 and had risen to 41C an hour later and it seemed to adversely affect Erakovic. She appeared to be a little unstable on her feet at times and her mother left the stands midway through the match to seek shade.

Diyas also played near the top of her game, hitting a high number of winners (27) off both her forehand and backhand and often clipping the line.

The first set was close before Erakovic was broken twice in two weak service games - she broke back immediately after the first - but Erakovic unravelled in the second set to tamely yield 6-0.

She struggled with her serve, getting only 50 per cent of her first serves in, and converted only one of 10 break point-opportunities throughout the match.

"It's the toughest, longest day ever that I've had at a Grand Slam I would say. It started at 7am and now finished at 10.30pm. In the singles it was a tough one, I came out a bit nervous and a bit tights I wasn't connecting with my shots. To be honest I was really struggling with the heat after a long rally. It was tough, but hats off to her she looked like she was cruising. She made some pretty good shots and coped with the heat. There was not much I could do about it," said Erakovic.

Regarding the heat and when matches should have been called off on the outside courts, Erakovic believed things could be simplified and made easier for everyone. She said she fell asleep for a couple of hours while they were off the court for the heat. "This is the glamorous side of the tennis tour.

"It goes both ways there's no denying Diyas played a good match, this rule they have with the heat is very shady. You should have seen the locker room after the first couple of matches. It wasn't just me. Girls were just being iced down because they were just in a haze. They (tournament organisers) really have to set a's at somebody's discretion to risk your health isn't that great."

The result continued a poor start to 2014. She was badly out of touch against Lauren Davis in the first round at the ASB Classic, afterwards admitting she struggled with the pressure of playing in Auckland, and was also ousted in the first round in Hobart, by Kirsten Flipkens. She also lost both her first-round doubles matches at both tournaments.

Erakovic will now return home before likely playing at the Paris Indoor tournament, then Fed Cup for New Zealand before tournaments in the Middle East.

Fellow Kiwi Michael Venus and Indian partner Yuki Bhambri today take on 10th seeds Jean-Julien Rojer of the Netherlands and Romania's Horia Tecau for a place in the third round.

- NZ Herald

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