Francesca Schiavone Finally Wins the Longest-Ever Women's Grand Slam Match

Gregory LanzenbergCorrespondent IJanuary 23, 2011

DOHA, QATAR - OCTOBER 26:  Francesca Schiavone of Italy reacts during her match with Samantha Stosur of Australia on day one of the WTA Championships at the Khalifa Tennis Complex on October 26, 2010 in Doha, Qatar.  (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

You might thing 16-14 is the prediction mark of the AFC championship match between the Jets and the Steelers, but you'd be wrong. It's the deciding third-set scoreline in the fourth-round Australian Open match between the last two French Open champions Francesca Schiavone and Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Schiavone, the reigning Roland Garros champion, moved into the quarterfinals of the Australian Open after edging out the Russian in the longest women's grand slam match in the open era. It is the kind of match where both would have deserved to win. Indeed once more it proves that the sport of tennis can be so amazing for the winner and so cruel for the loser.

Anyone who wants to become a champion once should have a closer look at our main picture. Like Rafael Nadal in the men's tour, Schiavone is not shy of showing her determination and can give some indication into how she was able to dig as deep as possible in order to find the necessary resources to win this epic match. It bettered the previous women's grand slam record set at last year's Australian Open when Barbora Zahlavova Strycova beat Regina Kulikova in four hours and 19 minutes. The Italian saved six match points along the way as she triumphed 6-4 1-6 16-14 in four hours and 44 minutes. By way of comparison, her last-eight opponent Caroline Wozniacki has spent just five hours and 31 minutes on court in total in her four matches at Melbourne Park.

The Italian won the first set before Kuznetsova, who beat Justine Henin in the previous round, stormed back to set up a decider which took exactly three hours to complete. Both players were struggling physically, especially Schiavone, who had a lengthy medical time out at 11-10. The 30-year-old then had to save six match points before capturing the decisive break at 14-14 and then served it out after the Russian had bravely threatened a comeback.

By the way, the Grand Slam record for a men’s match is 11 hours, five minutes, an epic battle between John Isner and French opponent Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon last year that was played played over three days, with the American eventually winning 70-68 in the fifth set. It was the longest tennis match in history measured by games and elapsed time.

The Australian Open record for the longest men’s match was set in 2009, a five-setter between Nadal and Fernando Verdasco that Nadal won in five hours, 14 minutes.

"It is a fantastic moment for me," said Schiavone afterwards. "It is one of the most emotional moments of my life. I just told myself to keep going, do it with the heart and go for it."

The Milan resident, who will rise to number four when the new WTA rankings are released in a week from Monday, is relishing the prospect of facing  the World No. 1.

"If you ask me now, I say no, but yeah, I'm young. I can run, I can do anything," she said. "I don't know how I will be on Tuesday but it will be good. Why not?"

The veteran is making a habit of winning long matches in Melbourne this year after beating Rebecca Marino 9-7 in the third set in round two.
 "That match helped me mentally for sure," she said. "Not physically, though, it was a tough match but not at such a high level as today's. A win like that makes you more experienced so it was a good match for me."
Things do not get any easier for the Italian and she expects another tough test against the Dane.

"She is number one in the world," said the 30-year-old. "She is young but good mentally. She is a really tough player because she doesn't give you anything for free, you have to work for every point. I will have to be aggressive and play really well to beat her."

For Kuznetsova there was only disappointment. She won more games than Schiavone (24-23) and more points (181-177) but could not land the decisive blow.

"I think she played well on the match points," she said. "I don't think I had an easy shot on any of them. The match could have gone either way so many times. I think it was just Francesca's day. "We both fought so hard but at the important moments she played better."