x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Svetlana Kuznetsova wins grudge match over Francesca Schiavone in Dubai

The last time Francesca Schiavone and Svetlana Kuznetsova squared off on a tennis court, the match became a part of history as the second-longest women¿s duel of the Open era - at the Australian Open earlier this year.

Svetlana Kuznetsova stretches to return a volley from Francesca Schiavone at the Dubai Duty Free Championships yesterday.
Svetlana Kuznetsova stretches to return a volley from Francesca Schiavone at the Dubai Duty Free Championships yesterday.

DUBAI // The last time Francesca Schiavone and Svetlana Kuznetsova squared off on a tennis court, the match became a part of history as the second-longest women's duel of the Open era.

It took 47 games and 288 minutes to decide the winner of the fourth-round clash at the Australian Open earlier this year.

Schiavone was triumphant on that day, winning the longest women's match in grand slam history 6-4, 1-6, 16-14.

The Italian, ranked world No 4, had saved six match points in Melbourne; she saved an identical number in Dubai as well, but Kuznetsova was lucky for the seventh time, sealing the match with a ripping forehand.

The former US Open (2004) and French Open (2009) winner triumphed 1-6, 6-0, 7-5 in 119 minutes to set up a quarter-final clash with Agnieszka Radwanska, and while the Russian was certainly pleased, she insists this victory does not make up for the pain of Melbourne.

"Well, you know, it was a grand slam ... it's different," said Kuznetsova, the world No 23.

"I know I can beat her, and I did beat her today."

She said that she was still upset about her two missed opportunities at the Australian Open, against Schiavone this year and against Serena Williams in 2009 when the American fought back to win 5-7, 7-5, 6-1 after organisers decided to close the stadium roof midway through the semi-final match.

"[But] a good thing or maybe a bad thing, I have a bad memory," she said. "I forget things in two days. It takes me two days of depression after I lose the match, but then I don't remember what happened in that match.

"It's not quite like I say but sometimes I just forget things quickly. It's good, because I still have it in my heart. I still have this pain, because I fought so hard and I had so many chances and it was a grand slam. But it happens, I guess."

Yesterday's match also seemed to be heading for a heartbreaking finish for Kuznetsova as she wasted one match point after another.

Her first two came as Schiavone, the 2010 French Open champion, served at 4-5, but she hit both her returns into the net and Schiavone eventually retained her serve with an incredible backhand from the baseline.

Kuznetsova forced a third match-point on Schiavone's next serve, at 30-40, but chopped a volley inches outside the sideline.

Another match point came after deuce, but the Russian failed again. Schiavone, 30 and voted the most improved player in 2010, then hit a forehand long to give her opponent another chance, but saved it with another winner.

Kuznetsova seized a sixth match point with a sizzling winner down the line, but again failed to capitalise. As memories of Melbourne came flooding back, the Russian unleashed a ripping forehand across the court to end the drama.

"I felt like she's lucky to get so many match points and get back every time," Kuznetsova said. "That's what I thought. I said to myself, 'look, you still have it. You're good enough. It's just a matter of closing the deal'.

"Of course it's much better to win, but I'm there, and I felt like I'm playing good. I just cannot close it [on match point]. It's just one point, a stupid point, but it's only one. I win like 101 during the match, and I can't win just final one. It's funny."

Had she failed to find that one point yesterday as well, Kuznetsova insists she would not have been too concerned because her focus is on playing well. "Doesn't matter, I will keep fighting," she said. "Even if I didn't win this match, I am playing a great game now. I am doing good. I know I can do much better, but I'm back. To compare with what I was doing on the court last year, that was a disaster."

Schiavone's departure has left the tournament without its second and third seeds. Vera Zvonareva, seeded No 2, was dumped out by Alisa Kleybanova 6-3, 6-2.

A day earlier, Li Na, the fifth seed and world No 7, was outgunned 6-7, 7-6, 6-2 by Belgian Yanina Wickmayer in a thrilling second-round encounter.

Wickmayer, however, failed to keep her form going and lost to Sahar Peer 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 yesterday.