Patrick Mouratoglou

The match of the decade

Patrick Mouratoglou

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In Melbourne, just like after the Mahut-Isner match at Wimbledon, everybody is now talking about the fight between Francesca Schiavone and Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Forget for a moment all the records it broke, the match showed everything we love about tennis and about sport in general.

These two Grand Slam champions produced it all: emotion, bravery, beautiful tennis and indeed a life lesson.

However, it did not initially look like we would get anything special.

The first two sets were poor. Both players looked unable to play close to their top level, maybe because of two reasons: the fear they have of each other and the mental and physical tiredness accumulated from their previous matches.

That can cause tension, the legs don't move correctly, things get sloppy, the timing is all off and the energy isn't there to make up for it all.

Let's not forget that Schiavone won 6-4 in the third against Parra Santonja, then 9-7 in the third against Rebecca Marino, and that Kuznetsova had to work hard in order to come through against Justine Henin.

Yet, the match kept going on, with both champions searching for answers in order to win.

They refused to give up without fighting and, even if the ball striking wasn't always there, the fighting spirit both showed little by little helped them to put their game in order.

When it got to one-set-all neither player wanted to lose. A fascinating arm wrestling began that would last three hours: before the Italian finally won 16-14.

What made it so outstanding?

Several things need to be noted about the match.

First thing is the quality of the players' focus.

During the third set, both players succeeded in remaining focused for three hours non-stop, without barely a single let down (because any drop would have been lethal).

This proves once again how human being own deeper abilities that one may think.

This brings me to talk about how both were able to dig so deep through that battle.

Whereas their physical and mental fatigue was so high, they still found inspiration and lucidity in order to play the best shot possible when it was needed, to play into the right zones, with the best effect, the perfect speed, and to build their points with some amazing shots.

They were able to believe strongly enough that their opponent would go down a level before they would.

Without such an effort, one or the other would have given up much earlier. It is hard to believe that the Italian served nine times in order to remain in the match!

At no time, despite all the missed opportunities, did they let discouragement take over. At no time, did doubt make them give up.

Each time they found a way to regroup and to go on fighting. Let's not forget that Svetlana had three consecutive match points at one stage.

Each time that one or the other was in a real danger, they displayed some huge mental strength in order to go for winners and they did that for more than three hours.

But it was Francesca Schiavone who found at the end that little something that made the big difference.

She went for her shots like she did in the French Open final. She went for those points one by one. She came to the net and succeeded in both putting pressure on her rival and finishing off the work done earlier in certain points.

It was a match neither player deserved to lose - the difference between them in the end was tiny.

It was the match of the decade.

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