MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – Red dust and rain gave some of the blue courts at the Australian Open a more Roland Garros hue, adding yet another freakish element to the conditions that have plagued the season’s first major.
Rain on three of the first four days of the tournament has caused disruptions for players and organizers, little more than a week after smoke from bush fires caused air quality in Melbourne to be ranked among the worst in the world.
Play was delayed on outside courts Thursday by showers and what a weather expert called “dirty rain” that left damp red dust covering some courts, forced the closer of some public pools and turned the Yarra River a deep, murky brown.
In the three courts with retractable roofs, it was business as usual. Fourth-seeded Daniil Medvedev needed a medical timeout for a nose bleed before beating Spanish qualifier Pedro Martinez 7-5, 6-1, 6-3 and advancing to the third round.
In the next match on Margaret Court Arena, 2016 Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber beat Priscilla Hon 6-3, 6-2 to complete a day session schedule that started with sixth-seeded Belinda Bencic’s 7-5, 7-5 win over 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko.
On Rod Laver Arena, second-seeded Karolina Pliskova, a semifinalist here last year, advanced 6-3, 6-3 win over Laura Siegemund following two-time major winner Garbine Muguruza’s 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 win over Ajla Tomljanovic.
Medvedev, the U.S. Open finalist, was leading 5-0 in the second set when he called the trainer to help stem the blood from his nose. He said it happens to him sometimes, he wasn’t bothered too much and confirmed it wasn’t related to tension.
“No, no, not at all. If it would be, I would be bleeding every match I play,” he said, smiling.
Medvedev said shifting from outdoor conditions to indoors helped him against Martinez.
“Yeah, of course it changes a lot, even like it was gray when we stepped on the court. We just played one game on the, let’s say, outdoor court,” he said. “As soon as the roof is closed, everything is different. It gets more hot, more humid inside. The ball goes faster. I think the sound of the ball even is different. So everything is completely different.
“Today, I think it was in my advantage. Sometimes (it) can be in your disadvantage.”
Bencic said she was happy to get her match out of the way early.
“I didn’t know the courts were, like, wet and dirty and all that,” Bencic said. “But for sure it was difficult today. It was sometimes sunny and then suddenly was almost raining. Then windy. Yeah, you just kind of have to accept it and go with it and try your best.”
Melbourne Park staff used high-pressure hoses to clean court surfaces. Light rain became heavy, forcing the suspension of play on outside courts until the sun came out in the mid-afternoon. Among the big winners was CiCi Bellis, the 20-year-old Californian who is ranked 600th following four surgeries on her arm.
Bellis upset No. 20-seeded Karolina Muchova. No. 19 Donna Vekic beat Alize Cornet 6-4, 6-2 and Zarina Diyas rallied to beat Anna Blinkova 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Wimbledon champion Simona Halep defeated British qualifier Harriet Dart 6-2, 6-4 to advance to the third round.
Halep ended 2019 ranked fourth, her sixth consecutive year-end top five finish. She will next play either Danielle Collins or Yulia Putintseva.
On the men’s side, Ernests Gulbis held off Aljaz Bedene 7-5, 6-3, 6-2.
Organizers were again forced to postpone matches because of the weather, rescheduled seven women’s and six men’s first-round doubles matches to Friday.
Bureau of Meteorology senior meteorologist Richard Carlyon told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. the brown rain was the result of the rain front moving through a dust storm northwest of Melbourne, and not from bushfire smoke.
Also Thursday, No. 18 seed Andrey Rublev defeated Yuichi Sugita 6-2, 6-3, 7-6 (7-5) in a second-round men’s match.
Two-time French Open finalist Dominic Thiem broke local wild-card entry Alex Boult’s serve in the third game of the fifth set and advanced to the third round with a 6-2, 5-7, 6-7 (5-7), 6-1, 6-2 win.
Seventh-seeded Alexander Zverev also advanced about the same time with a 7-6 (7-5), 6-4, 7-5 win over Egor Gerasimov. Zverev has pledged $10,000 toward the bushfire recovery effort in Australia for every match he wins in Australia, and promised to donate his full prize money if he claims his first major title this year in Australia.
“It was a tough match. Alex played great, with great crowd support. Great fun,” Thiem said.
Nick Kyrgios ousted Gilles Simon 6-2, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 in another second-round clash.
In later action, Taylor Fritz’s 4-6, 6-7 (5-7), 7-6 (7-4), 6-2, 6-2 comeback victory over two-time Grand Slam finalist Kevin Anderson gives the United States five men in the Australian Open’s third round for the first time since 2008.
The 29th-seeded Fritz has never been further at a major tournament. This was the second time in his career that he has managed to win a match in five sets after dropping the opening two.
He joined American men John Isner, Sam Querrey, Tenny Sandgren and Tommy Paul in the round of 32.
Isner won in straight sets Thursday and next faces three-time major champion Stan Wawrinka, while Fritz will play No. 5-seeded Thiem.
The other trio advanced Wednesday. Querrey and Sandgren meet each other Friday for a berth in the fourth round, while Paul will play Marton Fucsovics of Hungary.
Wawrinka, the 2014 Australian Open champion, defeated Andreas Seppi 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4.
Top seed Rafael Nadal labored past dogged fellow left-hander Federico Delbonis to take another step toward only a second Australian Open crown.
The Spanish world No. 1 created 20 break point chances but was constantly denied by the Argentine before he wrapped up a 6-3, 7-6 (7-4), 6-1 triumph.
The victory set up a third round clash with countryman Pablo Carreno Busta, his doubles partner at this month’s ATP Cup.
“It was a tough match. I lost a lot of opportunities on break point but found a way to finally win the second set,” Nadal said.
“In the third I was more relaxed, more aggressive and found better play in that set.”
Nadal had dropped only 10 games in three previous emphatic wins over 76th-ranked Delbonis, and defeat was never on the cards at Melbourne Park.