World number one and top seed Ana Ivanovic survived a scare lasting three hours and 24 minutes before disposing of Nathalie Dechy 6-7 (7/2) 7-6 (7/3) 10-8 in a Court One epic at Wimbledon today.
Ivanovic’s marathon victory fell only 21 minutes short of the all-time record for a women’s singles match at the All England Club but it could have been over more than an hour earlier in Dechy’s favour.
One set and 5-4 ahead, Dechy fashioned two match points on her opponent’s serve and looked like converting her second when an Ivanovic volley hit the net heavily – but trickled over to save the blushing Serb.
Ivanovic, who had looked on course for a quick victory over the world number 97 after storming through the first three games in just six minutes, had been pegged back from a break up twice in the first set.
Dechy romped through the tie-break to secure the advantage and performed similar mini-comebacks in the second set, her fierce ground strokes proving more than a match for the world number one.
If the momentum was expected to shift after Ivanovic took charge of the second set breaker, no-one was telling Dechy, who incredibly had failed to win two consecutive matches in her season to date.
Broken twice more in the decider to fall 4-2 then 5-3 behind, Dechy battled back each time and saw another slice of outrageous fortune fall the world number one’s way when the pair were locked together at 5-5.
Dechy flashed away a forehand volley which ought to have sent her 15-30 up on the Ivanovic serve, but in doing so lost her hat and was harshly ordered to replay the point due to a distraction – a point Ivanovic duly won.
The 29-year-old Frenchwoman, playing her 13th consecutive Wimbledon, then saved two match points on her own serve when Ivanovic held a 7-6 advantage.
But her incredible challenge finally fell short when Ivanovic secured three more match points at 9-8. She took advantage of her second with a forehand volley down the line.
Celebrating her victory, Ivanovic went across and kissed the net at the point at which it had saved her in the second set, before both players exited the court to a richly-deserved standing ovation.