Australian Open - Women: Schiavone wins epic

Sun, 23 Jan 10:04:00 2011

Francesca Schiavone edged Svetlana Kuznetsova 4-6 6-1 16-14 over four hours and 44 minutes in a record-breaking encounter.

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The Italian progressed to the quarter-final after emerging victorious after the longest women's Grand Slam match in the open era.

In a tortuous third set of unrelenting tension, 30-year-old Schiavone saved six match points and captured the decisive break at 14-14 after reaching desperately for a crosscourt volley that left Kuznetsova flat-footed at the net.

Kuznetsova saved two match points with a baseline winner and a sharp return but could not save the third as Schiavone wrapped up the three-hour final set with a forehand volley.

The match surpassed the record set by Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova and Regina Kulikova that lasted four hours and 19 minutes in last year's Australian Open, according to tournament officials.

"I hope one day to show this DVD to my son," said Schiavone, who became the second oldest player to win a maiden grand slam when she beat Australia's Samantha Stosur at Roland Garros last year.

"It's like every point is match point. You have to keep going. You know that physically you are tired, but the other one is too.

"Mentally it's the same ... We work every day to do this, to give the best when you really say, 'no, I can't do it.' But at the end you have something more, always."

Kuznetsova, however, felt the epic match produced the wrong winner.

"I just feel very empty. I don't know what to say," she said. "We both fought so hard the whole match, and the important moments she just played better.

"But statistically I also felt like I was the better player on the court ... Just very disappointing."

Schiavone will next play top seed Caroline Wozniacki after the world number one advanced to the quarter-finals after grinding out a 6-3 6-4 win over Anastasija Sevastova in the sunshine of Rod Laver Arena.

The world number one double-faulted to concede a break in the first game and trailed the 46th-ranked Sevastova 3-1 before mowing through the next six games.

The 20-year-old Sevastova fought back to 4-4 after being a break down in the second set, but notched two unforced errors to hand it straight back and Wozniacki sealed the match after whipping a cross-court forehand winner.

Wozniacki into last eight

Former world number one Maria Sharapova suffered a fourth round shock when she was bundled out 6-2 6-3 by Germany's Andrea Petkovic.

On the back foot from the start, Sharapova committed 30 unforced errors in a performance which underlined her struggles since her shoulder surgery in late 2008, the year she won the title in Melbourne.

Fourteenth seed Sharapova, a three-times Grand Slam champion, made a late charge from 2-0 down in the second set, saving two match points with a pair of rocket forehands.

But the Russian had dug herself too big a hole against a dangerous opponent and Petkovic completed victory in 79 minutes with a deep serve Sharapova could only push into the net.

Bosnian-born Petkovic celebrated reaching the last eight of a major for the first time with an on-court jig.

"It started off as a bet with my coach," Petkovic said afterwards of the cheeky dance of delight she performed after her upset win.

"I'm very superstitious and since I started doing the dance I'm playing much better, so I'll try to keep it up."

Petkovic now faces China's Li Na, who powered past eighth seed Victoria Azarenka 6-3 6-3 to book a spot in the quarter-finals.

Li, who lost to Serena Williams in last year's Melbourne semi-finals, had too much firepower for Azarenka, the ninth seed blowing her off court in 88 minutes.

The first Chinese player to reach the top 10 in 2010, Li wrapped up an easy win with another crunching backhand Azarenka wearily dumped into the net.

"Until now I still just - how you say - follow the dream," said 28-year-old Li, who defeated Kim Clijsters for the Sydney International title and has notched nine straight wins.

Wozniacki on win

Reuters

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