Australian Open: Li Na feels the heat, record-breaker Serena Williams marches on

Story highlights

  • Li Na saves match point to reach the fourth round of the Australian Open
  • The fourth seed says the conditions in Melbourne are the toughest she's ever played in
  • Serena Williams win a record 61st match at the year's opening grand slam
  • In the men's draw, defending champ Novak Djokovic and David Ferrer march on

The toughest conditions she has ever played in. That's how one of tennis' biggest stars described this year's scorched Australian Open.

And it's not hard to see why.

With temperatures in excess of 40 degrees, and after four days of players fainting, vomiting and tirelessly icing themselves to keep cool, Li Na was feeling hot and flustered.

The fourth seed, a runner-up at last year's Melbourne grand slam, was facing match point and a shock early exit at the hands of world No. 26 Lucie Safarova.

But the Czech sent a backhand five centimeters long of the baseline, letting Li back in to take a second-set tie break and then take advantage of the extreme heat contingency plan.

Play at Aussie Open suspended due to heat

    Just Watched

    Play at Aussie Open suspended due to heat

Play at Aussie Open suspended due to heat 02:46
PLAY VIDEO

In light of the oppressive weather, tournament organizers have allowed for an extra 10 minutes between the second and third sets of women's matches, a break which rejuvenated the 2011 French Open champion.

Read: Del Potro feels the heat in Melbourne

"After the second set, lucky thing we had the 10 minute break," China's Li told reporters after her 1-6 7-6 (7-2) 6-3 victory set up a fourth round match with Russia Ekaterina Makarova.

"I think five centimeters saved my tournament. If she hit it in, I think me and my whole team would be on our way to the airport now.

"At least I won the match, and I'm still in the tournament now. It was a difficult day for me but I was really happy with the way I was fighting on the court from the first point until the last point."

While Li Na went to cool down, tournament doctor Tim Wood had defended organizers' refusal to halt play during the sunniest parts of the day, saying that, while playing in the heat might be terribly uncomfortable, human beings "evolved on the high plains of Africa chasing antelope for eight hours under these conditions.

Serena Williams' inner circle

    Just Watched

    Serena Williams' inner circle

Serena Williams' inner circle 06:55
PLAY VIDEO

"There will be some players who complain and no-one is saying it is terribly comfortable to play out there, but, from a medical perspective, we know that man is well adapted to exercising in the heat. Whether it is humane or not is a whole other issue," Wood told the BBC.

Words that might not be music to Britain's Jamie Murray's ears, who was treated for heatstroke.

Whatever the conditions, world No. 1 Serena Williams continues her peerless dominance of the women's game.

The top seed has now won more matches at the Australian Open than any other woman in history after registering her 61st success at Melbourne Park by beating Daniela Hantuchova 6-3 6-3.

"I feel good to have gotten through that one because it was tough conditions out there, but I was happy to win," said the 32-year-old.

"Today actually wasn't as hot. I think it was hotter yesterday. So it wasn't as bad today. Honestly, on the one end I felt it was like a cool breeze coming over, so that was a good sign."

Williams' fourth round opponent will be the resurgent Ana Ivanovic, who reached the fourth round after coming from one set down to end Australian Samantha Stosur's hopes of a home grand slam triumph.

In the men's draw, defending champion Novak Djokovic remained on course for his fourth Australian Open title in a row as he eased into the fourth round with a 6-3 6-3 7-5 victory over Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan.

"I feel better on the court as the tournament is progressing," Djokovic, who played under the cool conditions of the Rod Laver Arena's closed roof, told reporters.

"Of course, I played three matches in different conditions. The roof was closed and the temperature dropped by at least 10 degrees, and you could feel that. It affected the play, it was much slower."

Victory for the Serbian, who won his first grand slam in Melbourne in 2008, sets up a meeting with his old friend Fabio Fognini, after the Italian beat American Sam Querrey.

"I'm going to try to win against him regardless of whether he's a friend or not," Djokovic continued. "I have a real friendship with him for more than 10 years but once we get on court we're both professionals and we want to win."

Spanish third seed David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych, the Czech seventh seed, and South African Kevin Anderson also booked their places in the next round of the sizzling Australian Open.

      Tennis

    • Rafael Nadal of Spain watches the ball in his match against Martin Klizan of Slovakia during during day seven of the China Open at the National Tennis Center on October 3, 2014 in Beijing, China.

      Rafael Nadal's body might be giving him a few problems, but his mind remains as strong as ever. Will the Spaniard add to his haul of 14 grand slam titles?
    • LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 17: Wimbledon champion Andy Murray and his long time girlfriend Kim Sears arrive at Buckingham Palace on October 17, in London, England. Murray will become an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) and receive his medal from the Duke of Cambridge. (Photo by John Stillwell - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

      The Scot has served up a few changes to his support team in 2014 but there's one person who isn't going anywhere -- his new fiancée Kim Sears.
    • Despite being forced to retire at the age of 24 due to health problems, Lacoste remained in the game and went on start the "Lacoste" brand in 1933, which specialised in tennis products. The inspiration for the company's logo came from his nickname as a player, "le crocodile."

      His distinctive crocodile logo is seen on clothing all over the world, but Rene Lacoste also left a lasting legacy in the development of tennis.
    • Serena Williams of the US holds the US Open trophy after defeating Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark during their US Open 2014 women's singles finals match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Center September 7, 2014 in New York. AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

      Serena Williams is without peer in the modern women's game and now she is on a par with two American tennis legends from the past.
    • American tennis player and golfer Althea Gibson (right) receives a kiss from compatriot Darlene Hard, whom she beat in two sets to become the first black woman to win the Women's Singles Finals at Wimbledon.

      Over the course of her remarkable life, Althea Gibson was many things to many people -- but it was tennis where she really left her mark.
    • "I didn't cry once when I practiced in front of the mirror," says Martin Emmrich. But the nerves kicked in when he got down on one knee on court.
    • LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 03: Tennis / Frauen: Wimbledon 2004, London; Finale; Siegerin Maria SHARAPOVA / RUS 03.07.04. (Photo by Bongarts/Bongarts/Getty Images)

      It's 10 years since a teenage Maria Sharapova became the darling of Wimbledon's hallowed Center Court, launching herself as a star.
    • Five-time grand slam champion Martina Hingis has followed her mom into a coaching role, setting up a new tennis academy in Barcelona, Spain.