Ukraine’s fourth seed Elina Svitolina outclassed her 15-year-old compatriot Marta Kostyuk to reach the Australian Open fourth round in 59 minutes, dispatching the World No 521 in a match played in 40C heat on Rod Laver Arena on Friday.
The youngest player since 1997 to reach the third round of a Grand Slam, Kostyuk was aiming to become the youngest since 1996 to progress to the last 16 after being given a wildcard into qualifying and winning the junior title 12 months ago.
It was sad that I was playing a Ukrainian girl. She's a great fighter, she fought right until the end and has a great future. Elina Svitolina
Svitolina, 23, the only seed left in her quarter of the draw, next will play the World No 130, Denisa Allertova, who stopped the progress of Magda Linette from Poland, 6-1 6-4, in the first match on the Margaret Court Arena.
Asked how much she had learned, the teenage Kostyuk said: “A lot. How much do you have to pay Svitolina to have a one-hour lesson? I got it for free.
“She’s a great player, but what I learned is that you can play against everyone. I had the chances, but because I thought she is incredible, like she’s a god, I cannot do anything against her, that’s the problem.”
Svitolina commented: “It was sad that I was playing a Ukrainian girl. She’s a great fighter, she fought right until the end and has a great future.”
The extreme heat was a real issue, and Kostyuk admitted she was in tears afterwards, crying as if she had lost from match point up, rather than going down 6-2 6-2, and her mother and coach, former pro Talina Beyko, was swift with reassurance.
“She said ‘Marta, you are good. Nothing bad happened’,” said Kostyuk, attributing her emotional reaction to the fact she felt she had not showed ‘maybe even 10 per cent of what I can’.
Svitolina had been feeling unwell when taken to three sets by Katerina Siniakova in the previous round, and the conditions on Rod Laver Arena would have made anyone feel ill.
She started more shakily than her wonder-girl opponent, who broke her to love in the opening game, but then immediately dropped her own serve.
Svitolina then won five of the next six games, and, eventually the match in just under the hour.
There were flashes of brilliance from Kostyuk, whose only other appearance on Melbourne Park’s showcase court was in last year’s triumphant junior final.
Svitolina also won a major as a 15-year-old at the French, without attracting the rave reviews that Kostyuk has drawn at the same stage, and it was her better consistency and ruthless efficiency that got the job done in the brutal weather conditions.
After an unfortunate ninth double-fault ended Friday’s contest, the Ukranians embraced warmly at the net, the elder proud of the younger, and enjoying an experience to savour.
“She did an amazing job here,” Svitolina added. “Winning one match in qualifying is already good. Winning two matches is, like, awesome. Three matches, passing qualifying, is something unbelievable, and then beating two girls playing good level.
“I think she remember this moment for all her life. So that’s why, you know, it was very special.
“Of course, it was a little bit, like, strange for me to play against her in the third round, but in the same time, it’s, you know, I think it’s very special. Yeah, a moment for both of us.”
Meanwhile, France’s Alizé Cornet had her blood pressure taken by a doctor during her defeat by Elise Mertens on the Hisense Arena.
Cornet was serving in her third-round clash with her Belgian opponent when the searing summer heat at Hisense Arena became too much for her and she collapsed in the shade behind the baseline, lying down out of the sun, as Melbourne baked in 42C temperatures for a second day in a row.
Mertens needed four match points before clinching a 7-5 6-4 win over the Frenchwoman, who took the medical timeout in the second set after complaining of being short of breath.
Following a consultation with the doctor and being draped in ice towels, Cornet was able to continue and played seven more games.
Mertens will meet Petra Martic from Croatia in the next round, winner over Thailand’s Luksika Kumhum, 6-3 3-6 7-5 in the opening match on Rod Laver Arena.
In the lower half of the draw, Magdalena Rybarikova from Slovakia took three sets to see off a third Ukrainian, Kateryna Bondarenk, 7-5 3-6 6-1, on Margaret Court Arena, while Spain’s tenacious Carla Suárez Navarro saw off the hard-hitting Estonian, Kaia Kanepi, 3-6 6-1 6-3, after an hour and three quarters out on Show Court 2.
Spectators also struggled with the scorching heat, abandoning seats in the sun and cramming on to chairs in the shade.
‘The health of our players is of paramount concern, but we need to be consistent with the outside courts so some don’t get an unfair advantage,’ Australian Open organisers tweeted.
‘We are constantly monitoring conditions. Let’s hope it cools down!’
The Australian Open extreme heat policy comes into effect if ambient temperatures exceed 40C and the wet bulb globe temperature exceeds 32.5C.
Day 4 of the Open attracted more than 38,000 people which made it 10,000 less than the previous days due to the extreme weather.
The temperature was forecast to hit 42C (108F) but a weather change in the afternoon eased conditions slightly for the two remaining night matches.