10 March 2011

Aussie Open Day 7: 23 January aka Franny vs Sveta

Day 7 provided me with one of the top moments of my Aussie Open trip. I should say it was the best but watching Li Na come back against Caro was pretty emotional and exciting, but more on that later.

Being a huge fan of both Svetlana Kuznetsova and Francesca Schiavone, I bought a ticket to the Hisense Arena for Day 7. I hadn't been in this court before so I wasn't sure how good my seat was, how the view was, etc.

And it ended up being a day in which it didn't matter where you were sitting - you were about to witness 4 hours and 44 minutes of history.

The session started with the Bryan Brothers who would of course win, and of course chest bump when they did.

I will note at this stage, I left my seat for a break and would not leave my seat again for 7.5 hours!

Next, I got to see Novak for the first time live since 2008 Olympics and he really wasn't bothered too much by Nicolas Almagro and then it was time for the match I was most keen to see: Sveta and Franny.

I saw Franny play at the ASB Classic in Auckland in 2010. She beat Alize Cornet pretty handily in the QF and then played her fellow Italian Flavia Pennetta in the semis. I expected a pretty good match but after a first bland first set which Flavia won 6-3, I popped out of the stadium for an errand. I swear just a few moments later, I walked by Franny and her coach outside the stands as she's just lost the second set in a bagel.

If you'd have told me then that Franny would be a grand slam winner just a few months later I know I would have laughed, but her French Open win still makes me cry when I watch that magical tiebreak. She is still one of the best stories of the WTA.

I just love Franny. And Sveta - how can you not love her? She's so funny, she's so honest and athletic and a frustrating mess sometimes. But when she's playing well she is wonderful to watch.

I doubt words can capture what it was like to be in the arena for such a memorable match. At one set all, I was stoked that the match was going the distance, and I remember when it got to be 5-5 I got really excited because I had never seen a match go into 'extra innings' live before.

Sveta had so many chances to take the match, but just like at Roland Garros last year, the extra pressure just made Franny play better. It's amazing to watch athletes perform so well when so many others would just tighten up - but Franny just covered the court amazingly well and never gave up.

I remember people getting up from their seats at 7-7 and 9-9 and I kept thinking 'you morons! How could you leave your seats during this dramatic, unbelievably well played third set?' But I guess not everyone has my bladder control.

It got the stage where I couldn't believe I was there watching the match, seeing Franny serve for the match three times and Sveta hanging in there even though she'd watched six match points go by. After every change of the ends the applause and cheering for these two amazing players just got so loud it brought tears to my eyes. It's hard to describe what that kind of atmosphere feels like. I was so proud to be a tennis fan.

Here's my attempt to capture the applause following change of ends:

Of course, it had to end, and someone had to lose. I was always leaning slightly to Sveta but how could you not want Franny to win? She's an inspiration, and she won it 6-4, 1-6, 16-14 in the longest women's grand slam match in history. Thanks ladies - I'm still in awe of your performances that day.

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