Francesca Schiavone tonight moved into the quarter-finals of the Australian Open after edging out Svetlana Kuznetsova in the longest women’s grand slam match in the open era.
The Italian saved six match points along the way as she triumphed 6-4 1-6 16-14 in four hours and 44 minutes.
By way of comparison, her last-eight opponent Caroline Wozniacki has spent just five hours and 31 minutes on court in total in her four matches at Melbourne Park.
French Open champion Schiavone won the first set before Kuznetsova, who beat Justine Henin in the previous round, stormed back to set up a decider which took exactly three hours to complete.
Both players were struggling physically, especially Schiavone, who had a lengthy medical time-out at 11-10.
The match swung one way and then the other before the Italian broke for 15-14 and then served it out at the third attempt after Kuznetsova had bravely threatened a comeback.
“It is a fantastic moment for me,” said the sixth seed afterwards. “It is one of the most emotional moments of my life. I just told myself to keep going, do it with the heart and go for it.”
World number one Caroline Wozniacki moved into the quarter-finals in Melbourne for the first time today with a scrappy victory over Anastasija Sevastova.
The Dane, who is chasing her first grand slam title, was functional rather than impressive but still possessed too much for Latvian Sevastova, winning 6-3 6-4 in one hour and 20 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.
Although she tops the rankings and has moved efficiently into the last eight, Wozniacki is still not the bookmakers’ favourite to go all the way as she sits behind Belgian Kim Clijsters in the betting.
Wozniacki, however, is unconcerned and hinted she had plenty more to offer.
She said: “I don’t think it matters who is the favourite. Sometimes you just need to get through that period where you don’t feel like you’re playing your best tennis. I think that the real champions come through even though they’re not playing at their highest level.”
She added: “For me it doesn’t really matter because when you go out there on the court you don’t get a lead even though you’re the favourite. So you just need to go out there and fight for every point.”
Wozniacki made a nervous start, being broken in the opening game, but she regained the upper hand with two breaks of her own to close out the first set.
The second could have gone either way but Wozniacki always seemed to have the upper hand as the error count started to mount for Sevastova.
A flurry of breaks at the end of the set resulted in Wozniacki being given the chance to serve for the match and she made no mistake to secure a quarter-final spot .
Wozniacki conceded she struggled to find her best today.
“It was a tough match out there,” she added. “She was playing pretty flat and deep with her forehand. Then she was spinning it quite a bit with her backhand, not giving me too much power. I found it quite tough to get out there and get a rhythm.
“But I’m happy that I was able to fight and run and get a lot of balls back and to be through to the next round.”
Li Na, who got to the semi-finals here last year, is also through following a 6-3 6-3 victory over Victoria Azarenka.
In a hard-fought contest Li broke five times to advance to a meeting with either Andrea Petkovic, who stunned Maria Sharapova 6-2 6-3.