This Australian Open is starting to be somewhat of a banner tournament for marathon 3-set matches on the women's side.
In the first 3 rounds alone, we've already seen extended 3rd sets in the following matches:
- Russian Ekaterina Makarova edged out Serbian former #1 Ana Ivanovic, 10-8,
- Another Russian Regina Kulikova beat Slovakian (and personal favorite) Daniela Hantuchova 9-7,
- Former top ten player Alicia Molik of Australia defeated Italian Roberta Vinci 8-6
- Chinese Shuai Peng beat Ukraine's Kateryna Bondarenko 8-6
- Another personal favorite Maria Kirilenko ousted Italian Romina Oprandi, 8-6
- Francesca Schiavone (who we'll be talking about again) surviving Canadian Rebecca Marino, 9-7
- and Ekaterina Makarova again, this time beating out fellow Russian Nadia Petrova, 8-6
But none of those 7 matches even came close to the match we saw earlier today. That match being the longest match in women's grand slam history: reigning French Open champion Francesca Schiavone outlasted 2-time grand slam champ Svetlana Kuznetsova in 4 hours, 44 mins. I only got to see the 3rd set, but that was enough for me to see how much fighting spirit these players had. Sveta isn't exactly known as the steadiest players out there (she's very powerful, but also very erratic), but she held her nerve for most part of the 3rd set and produced some great winners. Both players put their heart, sweat and guts on every shot they made (no, not literally...), but it was Schiavone who just pushed a little harder. She saved 6 match points in all, played great defense by chasing down ever shot even though it looked like she didn't have a chance to win the point, and hit some great winners and volleys herself. Great job on the win Francesca, and despite the loss, congrats are in order for Sveta's great play too.
Their match actually lasted about as long as the Hewitt-Nalbandian 5-setter in the first round. After that match, Nalbandian just had no gas in his tank and barely won a game against up-and-comer Ricardas Berankis before retiring. We'll see how Francesca holds up in the quarterfinals against Caroline (she's had 2 marathon matches already, and her other 2 matches weren't a walk in the park either.)