Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Neverending Match II

When John Isner and Nicholas Mahut played last year in the first round of Wimbledon, no one knew that they were about to take part in tennis history. Over three days and 11 hours later, they would finish their match and lay claim to having played the longest tennis match ever. Yesterday at the Australian Open, that record remained safely intact, but a similarly record-breaking dramatic match did happen.

The two most recent French Open champions, 6th seed Francesca Schiavone and 23rd seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, met for a fourth round match that had the lower seeded Kuznetsova favored especially in light of her great H2H record against the Italian on hardcourts. Schiavone won the very tight first set though shocking a few people, but Kuznetsova was able to sneak out a 6-1 (it was much closer than this score makes it seem) second set. At that point, both players had already played nearly two hours under the hot Australian sun. It was clear how tired and physically spent they were.

The third set would last exactly three hours long full of twists, turns, drama, and general epicness. There would be match points, break points, shanks, errors, winners, deuces, and love holds for both. With better numbers and a more powerful ground game, Kuznetsova almost had this match in the bag. She had six match points in that final set, but couldn't convert a single one. In the meantime, Schiavone was relentless in defense and outlasted the Russian 6-4 1-6 16-14. The entire match lasted 4 hours and 44 minutes becoming the longest women's tennis match at a Grand Slam tournament. And while the time is considerably less than that epic men's match between Isner-Mahut, this match had unbelievable rallies that the other one just didn't have.

It's a crushing blow for Kuznetsova who did so well in working hard off-season to be match-ready and then seeing that pay off in her amazing win over Justine Henin a match prior. Schiavone, too, shouldn't celebrate too much as she is playing in less than 48 hours to a much younger and less physically spent player. Hope the emotional low (for Kuznetsova) or the emotional high (for Schiavone) doesn't affect their year. It's worth noting that both Isner and Mahut of that epic aforementioned match were seriously deflated for the rest of the year.

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