This may not be quite as dramatic as the epic Wimbledon match last year which spanned over three days. It took 182 games and 11 hours and five minutes for American John Isner to defeat Nicolas Mahut of France. Still, yesterday's Australian Open fourth round match between Francesca Schiavone of Italy and Svetlena Kuznetsova of Russia has become the longest match in tennis history between two players of the fairer sex.
Just like in the incredible 70-68 final set of last year's Wimbledon match, in yesterday's match both players were totally absorbed and focussed in the contest that sometimes they were unaware of the external circumstances. To borrow Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi's term again, they were in "flow".
Mohamed Lahyani, the umpire of last year's match, said afterwards: "When you are so focused, and every point feels like a match point, you just don't even think about eating or needing the bathroom." Schiavone said after yesterday's match: "When you’re in a situation like this, I think every point is the most important. It’s like every point is match point. You have to keep going." Kuznetsova's experience was similar. “At some stage, I was like, ‘What’s the score? Who’s serving?’” she said. “I had no clue sometimes. It was so hard to count.”
All credits to 30-year-old Schiavone for coming through this tough one, but if past experience is anything to go by, I fear that she may not have much left for the next match after this gruelling one. She can ask John Isner about it.