x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Francesca Schiavone shows speed and stamina to win longest women's slam match

Francesca Schiavone may not be the most elegant player on the women's tour, but she is one of the toughest, both physically and mentally.

Francesca Schiavone may not be the most elegant player on the women's tour, but she is one of the toughest, both physically and mentally - traits she demonstrated on Sunday when she outlasted Svetlana Kuznetsova in the longest match in women's grand slam history.

The Italian, 30, fought off six match points to defeat the Russian 6-4, 1-6, 16-14 in an energy-sapping four hours and 44 minutes, making it the longest slam match in the open era, both in duration and games played.

Schiavone is a little dynamo, at 5ft 4ins (1.66m), in an era when most of the planet's top women players are considerably taller. She is known for her fitness, for fighting for every point and, since May, for winning the French Open, becoming the first Italian woman to win a slam event.

Her match with Kuznetsova was so draining that the Russian confessed to a bit of brain fade during the three-hour third set. She said: "At some stage I was, like, 'What's the score? Who's serving?' I had no idea sometimes. It was hard to count."

Kuznetsova, a big hitter, would seem to have an advantage in a situation where the failure to hold serve would prove fatal, but Schiavone used her quickness and court-coverage, as well as her whip-like forehand, to win it.

Schiavone was so elated that she said she hoped one day "to show this DVD to my son". Which is interesting, considering she has no children. Even so, the match will remain watchable when that son does enter the picture.