Four hours and 46 minutes. That's the longest women's match in Grand Slam history and it was played today, though to say it was "played" seems a complete misrepresentation of what actually happened when Sveta and Fran stepped onto Hisense Arena (YES IT WAS HISENSE) at 3:22pm in front of a scattered crowd. The first two sets, which they split, were fine tennis, but nothing too special. Both women got a set to showcase their game: Fran's variety and gutsy movement vs. Sveta's effortless power and angles.
Then the third set kicked off and the Hisense Hijinks kicked into gear, but this time for the good. The third set lasted 30 games and took over three hours to complete. And less anyone think this was what the WTA-haters would term "a choke-fest", let me and the every single person who watched this match assure you, it was not. It was three hours of gutsy, high-quality tennis that left your mouth agape, your jaw slack, and your heart in your throat.
Each player had chances to serve for the match, and in each instance the other stepped up, playing some gutsy points to break back to even the match. Exhaustion clearly hit both players, particularly Fran, who had to call for frequent massages of her legs and rib cage area. Sveta definitely looked to be the fitter player (all that off-season work was paying off) and my sense was that a win was inevitable. I simply did not have faith that Fran had enough in the tank to pull this one off. She looked almost punch-drunk on the changeovers, staring off into the distance, moving slowly.
Clearly I did not learn from Roland Garros that the only muscle Fran needs to win tennis matches is her heart.
She would valiantly fight of break points, serve out games to love, and run down everything Sveta threw at her. The woman does not know the word "quit" in any language. Even balls that were clearly out or clear winners, Fran made it a point to chase them at full-sprint, sending a message to Sveta that she was still in it and she would still fight.
Sveta: "At some stage I was like, what's the score? Who's serving? I was like, what's going on anyway here? I had no clue sometimes. It was so hard to count. I was like, who is up? She? Me?" We lost track, too, Sveta.
Fran would eventually break and hold her serve, clinching the match on a netrushed forehand volley reminiscent of the many she sneaked in against Sam at RG. The only emotion that sunk over me was disappointment. Disappointment for Sveta for having to be on the losing end of such a well-played match and disappointment that the amazing match was over, and disappointment that a taxed and tired Fran would have to somehow recover to take on a well-rested Caro on Tuesday.
"The match could go either way so many times. I mean, I think it just was really a day of Francesca. We both fighted so hard the whole match, and the important moments she just played better. But statistically I also felt like I was better player on the court. I played better. Just very disappointing. Sometimes I guess it happens in tennis like it happened today, that key points, she just won it.
I'm proud of the work I've done. I had all matches which I lost, but I just didn't close them. In Auckland I was 4 2 up against Peng in the third set. In Sydney I was 6 3, 5 3 up against Li Na. Here I had match points. I didn't close them but I'm there. It already makes me think positive. Last year I didn't win one top 10 player. I beat Stosur, Justine, which for me was a little bit headache to play her. For me, it's points to work harder and go forward."
And Fran? Let's just say she was tired but had "big emotion". She should. The win moves her up to #4 in the world after all is said and done in Melbourne.
"You know, one has to win; the other has to lose for sure. But I think we played very high level all the match. But in the third set we give everything. So when we finish, I say Svetlana a really good job and you are great, fantastic. She say the same. We respect a lot each other."
As for whether she'll be ready for Tuesday's match against Caro:
If you ask me now, I say no. But, yeah, I'm young. I can run; I can do anything. Yeah, for Tuesday I will be -- I don't know how, but it will be good. Why not?
I want to make yello LiveStrong bracelets that say "Francesca Schiavone: "Why not?"
Good show, ladies. If you didn't see the match, download and settle in for a clinic on competition, grit, and guts. I think that would shut up the haters for a while.