Murray serves notice as US Open heats up

New York: Andy Murray made a brilliant start in his bid to win the US Open when he cruised through his first match at Flushing Meadows on Wednesday after Victoria Azarenka sent a shiver through the tennis world when she fainted on a scorching court.

Azarenka, wearing a black dress and playing on an outside court when temperatures were at their hottest, was rushed to hospital after collapsing in a heap during her second round match against Argentina`s Gisela Dulko.

The Belarussian had succumbed to heat at last year`s Australian Open and there were fears she had been a victim of the extreme temperatures that had forced US Open organizers to invoke their rarely used Extreme Weather Policy.

But she later revealed that she had been diagnosed with a mild concussion and her tumble had been a delayed reaction to a fall she had suffered in the gym while warming up.

"I was checked by the medical team before I went on court and they were courtside for monitoring," she said.

"I felt worse as the match went on, having a headache and feeling dizzy. I also started having trouble seeing and felt weak before I fell."

Murray served notice to Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal about why he is regarded as one of this year`s title favourites as he crushed Slovakia`s Lukas Lacko 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 on another steamy day inside Arthur Ashe Stadium.

New York`s hottest summer in decades has spilled on to the courts at Flushing Meadows with a slew of seeded players unable to make it past the early rounds in the first three days, but none as dramatically as Azarenka, the 10th seed from Belarus.

Although the weather was slightly cooler than the previous day, it was still hot enough to leave players drenched in sweat and needing to wrap bags of ice around their necks at the change of ends to keep cool.

Murray, once again shouldering the burden of British expectations, escaped the worst of the heat but only because he was able to race to victory in under two hours.

"I managed to get through in straight sets so I`m pleased, but it was a lot tougher than the score suggests," the fourth-seeded Scotsman said.

"Everyone in my (supporters) box always tells me it`s a lot tougher watching in the heat than playing but I`m not so sure. It was brutal conditions."

Venus Williams, her confidence rising with every match after recently returning from a knee injury, eased through to the third round with a comfortable 7-6, 6-3 victory over Canada`s Rebecca Marino.

Williams, US Open champion in 2000 and 2001, is only playing singles this year after her sister and regular doubles partner Serena pulled out with an injury and said she was loving the lighter workload.

"So far I feel good. I made a quick turnaround this summer to try to get ready for the Open," she said.

"I`m glad that I`m just in the singles. That way I have the opportunity to recover between rounds and to get ready to play the next one."

Another six seeds made early exits on Wednesday with Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych the most notable casualty.

The Czech stumbled at the first hurdle, outclassed 7-6, 6-4, 6-4 by France`s Michael Llodra, who is better known as a doubles specialist.

"I don`t know whether I played well or not today," Berdych said. "I need to sit down with my coach who saw the match from the stands."

Bureau Report