MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA — Heat got Novak Djokovic today. Heat and the relentless pace of Andy Roddick's serve and forehands and the way Roddick didn't seem to need to hide from the blazing sun or be fazed by any mistakes, and finally, he retired in the fourth set of their Australian Open quarterfinal match.
After Djokovic had lost velocity he lost his will and finally the tournament's defending champion walked to the chair umpire and quit.
The retirement pushed seventh-seeded Roddick into the semifinals with a 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-2, 2-1 win over the third-seeded Djokovic. Next, Roddick will meet the winner of tonight's match between second-seeded Roger Federer and eighth-seeded Juan Martin Del Potro.
In the first set of the Roddick-Djokovic duel, when neither player could get a service break, the Serb seemed to prove his edge over the American by dominating the tiebreaker. He hit four consecutive forehand winners, jumped to a 4-0 lead in the tiebreaker and closed out the set with another forehand winner.
But Roddick had made Djokovic run, so that even on points the 21-year-old Serb won, he didn't win them easily. And Roddick's off-season conditioning program, during which he lost about 15 pounds, started to pay off.
Roddick began consistently getting penetrating service returns back at Djokovic and as the match progressed, Djokovic's racket started dropping lower and lower, his shoulders started sagging and the pace of his shots descended.
By the time Djokovic stood up and conceded the match, the question hadn't been if but when.
When Roddick broke Djokovic's serve to take a 2-1 lead in the fourth set, Djokovic set down his racket, shook hands with Roddick and told chair umpire Carlos Ramos, "I am done." Djokovic had taken a medical timeout in the third set, citing heat-related stress as the problem.
Roddick, whose only major championship remains the 2003 U.S. Open, won five straight games after Djokovic's timeout and won 11 straight points to finish off the third set.
Serena Williams was also out in the blazing sun on the Margaret Court Arena, where there was no place to hide from the heat, fighting through a three-set doubles match, which she and her sister Venus won 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 over Peng Shuai of China and Hsieh Su-Wei of Taipei.
Serena didn't need to play so hard, to sweat so much. After all she has a Wednesday quarterfinal match against hard-hitting Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova. It will be an energy-sapping event for sure with a heat wave predicted to be the worst in 100 years on tap for the rest of the week.
At 27, Serena is the second-oldest woman left in the draw, just a month younger than fourth-seeded Elena Dementieva but while other players were suffering in the over-100 degree on-court temperatures, huddling under towels, wearing ice bag necklaces, the Williams sisters played on a side court without any shade, and afterward Serena said the doubles play in the heat was not difficult at all.
"I was fine," Serena said. "I didn't even notice it."
While there were discussions about why the roof on Rod Laver Arena wasn't closed during the day, a decision that ultimately rests with the chair umpire, Serena and Venus were out on a court with no roof, no overhangs and only a sprinkling of fans willing to sit uncovered.
"It really wasn't that bad," Serena said. "We're used to that," Venus agreed.
Vera Zvonareva became the first woman to advance to the semifinals with a 6-3, 6-0 win today over No. 16-seeded Marion Bartoli of France. Zvonareva, seeded seventh, is into her first major tournament semifinal.
Bartoli certainly suffered in the heat. "It was some tough conditions," she said. "It was hot in a very noticeable way. I think I suffered. I was really feeling the heat after the end of the first set so I needed to cool down so I got the ice."
Tracy Austin, who is doing Australian television commentary, said Serena hasn't showed her best tennis yet.
She said she expects Serena to advance past Kuznetsova in her next match, if only on the basis of her first serve. "In my opinion it's the best in the game," Austin said. "I know she wasn't happy with it in her last match and went out for extra practice, but I expect it to be better.
"What I've noticed so far is that her footwork isn't great right now, I'd like to see her moving her feet better."
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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING ...
Dinara Safina (3) of Russia played 187th-ranked Jelena Dokic of Australia.
Roger Federer (2) of Switzerland played Juan Martin Del Potro (8) of Argentina.
Go to latimes.com/sports for details of all these matches.
Serena Williams (2) of the U.S. vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova (8)
Elena Dementieva (4) of Russia vs. 46th-ranked Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain.
Rafael Nadal (1) of Spain vs. Gilles Simon (6) of France.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (5) of France vs. Fernando Verdasco (14)
-- Diane Pucin