Schiavone wins longest women's major match

MELBOURNE, Australia — One of the players was so exhausted she forgot who was serving. The other kept checking the ticking clock on center court and thinking to herself, "Brava, Francesca!"

The clock finally stopped at 4 hours, 44 minutes, when French Open champion Francesca Schiavone of Italy beat Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-4, 1-6, 16-14 in the fourth round at the Australian Open and set a record for the longest women's Grand Slam match in the Open era.

An exhausted but elated Schiavone described the match as "fantastic!"

Though the 30-year-old Schiavone is at an age when many players are considering retirement, she's playing the best tennis of her career and making history as goes.

She won the French Open last year at 29, becoming the first Italian to win a major and the oldest woman in four decades to win her first Grand Slam. She also became the oldest woman in 12 years to crack the top 10 for the first time.

With Sunday's win she set a new personal best, reaching her first Australian Open quarterfinal in 11 tries. She has played in 42 consecutive Grand Slams. She also is expected to rise from her current career-high ranking of No. 6.

"When you're in a situation like this, I think every point is the most important. It's like every point is match point. You have to keep going," she said.

Schiavone saved six match points and closed the final set on her third match point.

"Physically you are tired," she said. "Mentally it's the same."

Schiavone kept fresh by dousing herself with bottled water at game changeovers, pouring it over her head, arms and legs. Both players sought rubdowns from their trainers to ease tight muscles.

The third set was a three-hour marathon, with incredible shots and saves by both players, going more-or-less game for game until Schiavone edged ahead and ended it at a staggering 16-14.

The longest previous women's match in a Grand Slam tournament was here last year when Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova beat Regina Kulikova 7-6 (5), 6-7 (10), 6-3 in a contest lasting 4:19.

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