|Francesca Schiavone of Italy (L) and Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia embrace after their match at the Australian Open tennis tournament. (REUTERS/Petar Kujundzic)
MELBOURNE - Francesca Schiavone is into the quarterfinals at the 2011 Australian Open, but only after outdueling Svetlana Kuznetsova in a fourth-round match that lasted nearly five hours.
The sixth-seeded Schiavone needed an outlandish four hours, 44 minutes to upend Kuznetsova, 6-4, 1-6, 16-14, in the longest women's match in Open era history.
The first two sets between the former French Open champions went by with little fanfare, but the deciding set, which lasted three hours alone, provided more than enough drama for the crowd at Hisense Arena.
Kuznetsova, the 2009 titlist at Roland Garros, had triple match point at 8-7, but Schiavone won the next five points to even things.
"Just frustrating because I felt like it was my match to play," Kuznetsova said. "I was playing better and dictating and I was doing stuff. But she was playing smart. I give her credit for playing great."
Schiavone then went ahead 0-40 and appeared to have earned a break with a deft volley. However, she touched the net before the ball bounced twice on Kuznetsova's side of the court, giving the point to the 23rd-seeded Russian, who went on to hold serve for a 9-8 lead.
"I couldn't stop," Schiavone said of the point. "I was returning, but I say, 'Oh, oh, oh, I can't stop.' So I try to ask to the umpire, 'Please give me this point, I need it.' But he didn't give me [it]."
Schiavone, the reigning French Open champ, staved off three more match points during her next service game and earned a break for a chance to serve out the match, but Kuznetsova answered with a break of her own.
Again the duo solved one another's serves -- with each taking a lengthy injury timeout in between.
Schiavone earned the next break to go up 15-14, and with the advantage on a deuce, she ended the battle of wills at the net, hitting a winning volley that completed the historic decision.
Schiavone now has to face top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki in the quarters after the Dane rolled to a straight set win over Anastasija Sevastova.