The Australian Open’s most epic encounters

Younes El Aynaoui suffered an agonising defeat against Andy Roddick in 2003

Younes El Aynaoui suffered an agonising defeat against Andy Roddick in 2003

The Australian Open is set to enter the quarter-final stage next week, and we’ve already seen some real tests of endurance.

Home favourite Lleyton Hewitt succumbed to Andreas Seppi of Italy in heartbreaking fashion, staging a comeback from two sets down before falling 7-5 in the fifth, while Maria Sharapova battled soaring temperatures to edge past Karin Knapp 10-8 in the deciding set of her second round match.

Those defeats will have been tough to take for Hewitt and Knapp, and almost as tough for those of you who had bet on them to make it through – that’s unless you bet with GR88.com, who are offering money back on those games which go the distance.

Place a bet of up to £50 on the winner of a match, and if the winning player wins seven games in the final set then losing match bets will be refunded. This goes not only for the epic five-setters in the men’s draw, but also those three-set women’s matches which – as Sharapova and Knapp proved – can be just as physically demanding.

Of course, this is not the first year that certain singles games have gone on…and on…and on. Below is a recap of two of the more memorable epics.

Andy Roddick v Younes El Aynaoui, Quarter-Finals, 2003

Roddick is no stranger to high-scoring final sets, with his near-impenetrable serve often leading to back-and-forths which go on for longer than most. There is arguably no greater example than the 2003 quarter-final, where he took on the talented if enigmatic Moroccan El Aynaoui.

It had been relatively smooth sailing for ninth seed Roddick, who had recorded two straight-sets wins en route to the second week in Melbourne. He would have expected to face top seed Hewitt but the Australian fell to a shock defeat against El Aynaoui – seeded 18th – in round four.

Breaks of serve were few and far between as the pair exchanged blows early on, the Moroccan taking the first and third sets only to see his young opponent fight back to take the following set on both occasions.

20-year-old Roddick had a chance to serve for the match at 11-10 but let the opportunity slip, and the game lasted another 18 games before the American finally served out for a 21-19 victory.

The match lasted nearly five hours, and Roddick admitted that by the end “It was just pure fighting”

 

Francesca Schiavone v Svetlana Kuznetsova, 4th Round, 2011

She may have faded in the years since, but it’s easy to forget that Francesca Schiavone was one of the top five female tennis players in the world as recently as 2011.

Entering the tournament seeded sixth, the Italian came face-to-face with Russia’s Svetlana Kuznetsova after a tricky run in the early stages which had already included a 9-7 final set win over Canada’s Rebecca Marino.

Kuznetsova, on the other hand, had the honour of being the last player to eliminate Justine Henin from a Grand Slam, prompting the retirement of the former world number one. The Russian had won all three of her matches in straight sets, but that would soon change as Schiavone took the opener by six games to four.

A well-rested Kuznetsova responded by taking the second 6-1, at which point the match had been going on for less than two hours.

However a marathon decider saw the 23rd seed squander six match points, and her opponent only needed three opportunities to seal the deal in the 30th game of the set. At four hours and 44 minutes, the match remains not only the longest of the Australian Open, but the longest in any Women’s Grand Slam.

 

Novak Djokovic v Rafael Nadal, Final, 2012

Tennis has had a number of memorable finals in recent years as the sport’s elite have battled for supremacy, and Rafael Nadal has been involved in more than one such battle.

While British fans will have fond memories of his 16-14 final set defeat to Roger Federer in 2009, those in the southern hemisphere will point to the epic 2012 final at the Rod Laver Arena.

Ranked one and two in the world before the final, Djokovic and Nadal had both eased through to the quarter-finals before seeing off Andy Murray and Roger Federer respectively in the last four.

The quality on show rarely faltered, even as the game entered its fifth set and sixth hour of play. While Nadal was more clinical, converting four of his six break opportunities, his Serbian opponent made the all-important final breakthrough to win the game 5–7, 6–4, 6–2, 6–7, 7–5 and secure his fifth grand slam title.

After the game, Djokovic paid tribute to his opponent as “one of the best players ever”, but both put their names into the history books with one of the best finals the sport has ever seen.

Will we see a repeat of the Djokovic-Nadal final in 2014? Head over to GR88.com to place your bets on this week’s games right now.

 

tvTOM VICTOR (editor)  is the editor and co-founder of Betting Instinct. He has written for a variety of sports sites in the past, including JustFootball, Footy Matters and BeNeFoot.

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