Sharapova backhands Garbin

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) – Top-seeded Maria Sharapova got another taste of the elements, ignoring the saunalike conditions in Rod Laver Arena to advance to the second week of the Australian Open.

While heavy rain prevented play on outside courts, the roof on center court was closed Saturday for Sharapova’s 6-3, 6-1 third-round victory over 30th-seeded Tathiana Garbin.

The air conditioning wasn’t working early and the players were already sweating profusely after their warmup, while spectators fanned themselves with programs.

“It was a little steamy in there … humid,” Sharapova said. “I’ve felt cozier in my life.”

It was slightly cooler for three-time Australian champion Martina Hingis, who needed only 62 minutes to beat Japan’s Aiko Nakamura 6-2, 6-1.

Hingis, in the second year of her comeback from three years on the sidelines, has lost only nine games in three matches.

Sharapova has lost just seven games since her narrow escape against Camille Pin in a steamy first-round match.

“I guess I can say I’m still lucky to be in the tournament after my first round,” Sharapova said. “It is only going to get tougher for me.”

The U.S. Open champion played in searing temperatures in her opening win, saying the heat had made her delusional while she gave up a 5-0 lead in the third set.

At the same time, new matches on outside courts were delayed under the tournament’s Extreme Heat Policy as temperatures headed above 100 degrees.

Her second-round win over Anastassia Rodionova was in cool and overcast conditions.

Against Garbin, Sharapova was broken in two of her first three service games. Then she found the range and was ripping winners – hitting the lines on three consecutive shots in one point – and allowed Garbin only one game the rest of the way. “I thought I was a bit slow in the beginning of the match – didn’t really adjust,” she said. “I was letting her play her game a little too much.

“But I felt like as the match went on, I moved a lot better. I saw the short balls a lot quicker, put pressure on her.”

Garbin certainly was putting in the effort, sprinting from sideline to sideline, earning loud applause as she raced from the left baseline to get to a Sharapova drop shot near the net on the right side and flicking a forehand winner down the line.

But she had only four other winners to go with 18 unforced errors and was looking increasingly dispirited as the match wore on.

Nakamura had nothing to attack with in a match that was a throwback to Hingis’ early days, when the women’s game was more about slices than power.

Sensing that Nakamura had little to hurt her with – she had only two winners to 11 unforced errors in the first set – Hingis worked on her placement and net game, where she won 10 of 14 approaches.

“It’s always a great feeling to be in the second week of a Grand Slam. That’s what you come here for,” said Hingis, who has played six finals at Melbourne Park. “Being seeded sixth, that’s what you expect at least. I’m happy I was able to at least fulfill my commitment so far.”

Men’s No. 2 Rafael Nadal was the next match on center court against Stan Wawrinka.

Sixth-seeded Andy Roddick had to be sure his coach Jimmy Connors didn’t fly all the way to Melbourne for nothing Friday.

Connors was uncertain if he’d join Roddick for the Australian Open after his mother and longtime coach, Gloria, died this month.

The eight-time major winner decided to make the long trip – his first to Melbourne since losing in 1975 – for Roddick’s 7-6 (2), 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (2) third-round win over 2005 champion Marat Safin.

“We’ve been thinking a lot about Jimmy in the last couple of weeks, so for him to be here in the flesh, we’re really happy,” Roddick said. “For him to go through what he’s been going through, to hop a flight and show up this morning and stay up, he’s still in the locker room chugging along.”

Safin needed a medical timeout after skinning his fingers lunging for a passing shot in the third set.

After a brief delay for the roof to be closed because of light rain, he refused to play because he thought the court was too wet.

He argued calls with the chair umpire and was critical of tournament referee Wayne McKewen, saying the official wore a suit and leather shoes and smoked cigars, and did not know enough about player safety to order him to continue. He was cautioned for an obscenity, but it hardly stemmed his complaints, which continued after the match.

Roger Federer moved a step closer to a 10th Grand Slam title with a 6-3, 6-3, 7-6 (5) win over Mikhail Youzhny. The top-ranked Swiss star will be chasing a 33rd consecutive win when he plays 14th-seeded Novak Djokovic, who beat Thailand’s Danai Udomchoke 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 6-1.

On the women’s side, Serena Williams, plagued by a bad knee last year and unseeded after winning this event in 2005, rallied after No. 5 Nadia Petrova served for the match at 6-1, 5-3. Williams, ranked No. 95, showed plenty of grit in a 1-6, 7-5, 6-3 victory that was her first over a top-10 player since she won the last of her seven majors in Australia two years ago.

Defending champion Amelie Mauresmo beat Eva Birnerova to set up a match against Lucie Safarova, while No. 3 Svetlana Kuznetsova, No. 7 Elena Dementieva, No. 10 Nicole Vaidisova and No. 16 Shahar Peer also advanced.

AP-ES-01-19-07 2254EST

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