SYDNEY: Wild weather wreaked havoc on the Sydney International yesterday, leaving some of the top Australian Open hopefuls battling their way through stifling heat, gale-force winds and an electrical storm.
Most of the top players, including last year’s Australian Open finalist Marat Safin, survived the scorching temperatures that soared as high 45 degrees Celcius but the storms that followed claimed some big-name victims.
World number 10 Andy Roddick was sent packing 7-6, 7-5 by Korean qualifier Lee Hyung-taik after the 100kph gusts turned their match into a farce.
Bulgaria's Magdaleena Maleeva, the women’s eighth seed, also made an early exit after the weather turned foul, losing to Amanda Coetzer 6-4, 6-1.
“I’ve never played in anything like that,” Roddick said.
“It was unbelievable. That was not a tennis match.”
The storms were so severe that thousands of Sydney homes were blacked out, power lines were torn down and trees were uprooted.
Safin, playing just after noon, staged a mighty comeback in oppressive heat to beat Jarrko Nieminen 3-6 6-1 6-2.
The giant Russian said it was so hot on court he'd forgotten how to think but said the gruelling examination had shown he was in peak physical condition ahead of the Australian Open.
French Open finalist Juan Carlos Ferrero and Belgian Fed Cup team mates Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin-Hardenne also survived the oven-like temperatures to safely make it through to the quarter-finals.
Ferrero hammered Russian Davis Cup winner Mikhail Youzhny 6-3, 6-2, Clijsters crushed Patty Schnyder 6-1, 6-3 and newlywed Henin-Hardenne saw off qualifier Janette Husarova.
n MELBOURNE: Eager Andre Agassi assumed his customary winning stance to start his 2003 season, efficiently collecting a 7-6 (7-5), 6-3 group victory over Swede Thomas Enqvist yesterday at the Kooyong International.
The 32-year-old with seven Grand Slam titles to his name said that testing conditions on court, with gusting winds playing a major role in the proceedings, only made the victory that much more satisfying.
“It was very windy, very breezy,” today, said the winner of three Australian Open titles.
“You couldn't take any shot for granted. Taking a quality swing to the thickest part of the court was your best option.”
Enqvist, who played a final at the Open in 1999, is still feeling his way after a late autumn shoulder injury, committed 22 unforced errors - a fatal error against Agassi, who takes every match seriously at age 32 and has everything still to play for.
“I felt good,” said the American. “You never know about the first match. Thomas can hit through the wind. I was moving well.
“There are more gears there that I'm anxious to get to in my game. But I felt very comfortable.”
Australian Mark Philippoussis also gave himself some satisfaction as he began regrouping after another autumn injury setback to take a victory over Spain's Alex Corretja 5-7, 6-4, 7-6 (7-5). – AFP