The Australian Open, billed as the 'Grand Slam of the Asia Pacific' is the only Grand Slam to be held in the Southern Hemisphere. The youngest of the 4 Grand Slams, the Australian Open is unique in more ways than one. Few firsts for this great event include - the first of the Grand Slams to have a retractable roofing system over one of its primary courts, the only Grand Slam to be held in 2 different countries (Australia and New Zealand), the only Grand Slam to have been conducted twice in the same year (1977) and more recently the only Grand Slam to have a 10 minute extreme heat break between 2nd and 3rd set for Women and after the 3rd set for Men.
Rod Laver Arena, Margaret Court Arena and the Hisense Arena - the three main courts of the Australian Open have been witness to many epic marathon clashes over the years. It is hard enough to play a 5 set match in a Grand Slam, but playing one during the peak Australian summer season where temperatures can soar above 40 degree Celsius - now that's taking it to a whole new level.
As the 2019 edition of the Australian Open is set to start, we take a look back at 5 of the longest Australian Open Men's Singles matches (in terms of match duration) in the Open Era:
# Novak Djokovic vs Stanislas Wawrinka – Round of 16, 2013
2-time defending champion and top-
eed Novak Djokovic was the pre-tournament favorite going into the 2013 Australian Open. He was placed in the same side of the draw as Swiss Number 2 and 15th seed Stan Wawrinka. Wawrinka was yet to win a Grand Slam title back then and was finding his way back to form after a not so great 2012 season.
Neither of the two men dropped a set as they squared off in their 4th round encounter. Wawrinka quickly took the first set 6-1 and lead by 5-2 in the second before Djokovic won 5 games in a row to level the match. A single break of serve gave Djokovic the third set before another tight 4th set where both men held resolutely to their service games forcing a tiebreak. A single mini-break gave Wawrinka the 4th set. The 5th set produced some high-quality tennis as both men saved quite a few break points on their own serves. Eventually, it was Djokovic who prevailed 1-6 7-5 6-4 6-7 (5-7) 12-10. The match ended at 1:41 am and lasted for 5 hours and 2 minutes.
Watch and enjoy the extended highlights of this marathon match below :
# Boris Becker vs Omar Camporese – 3rd round, 1991
Boris Becker had never won the Australian Open. All that changed in 1991. However, he didn't have an easy path to victory as the Number 2 seed had to face one of the most difficult matches of his illustrious career. Italian Omar Camporese was Becker's 3rd round opponent that year.
Becker and Camporese were neck to neck in the first two sets with Becker only managing to edge out his opponent in a tiebreak in both the sets. Camporese turned the tables remarkably in the next two sets, even bageling Becker in the 3rd set. Camporese levelled the match by taking the 4th set. The 5th set was a marathon contest as both men just refused to budge. Eventually, after 5 hours and 11 minutes, Boris Becker won the match. The final score read 7-6(7-4), 7-6(7-5), 0-6, 4-6, 14-12.
# Rafael Nadal vs Fernando Verdasco – Semifinals, 2009
Rafael Nadal had won his first Grand Slam title outside of Paris at the Wimbledon Championships of 2008 and had overtaken his great rival, Roger Federer to top the ATP rankings in August 2008. He started the year 2009 as the World's Number 1 player.
After breezing through to the semi-finals without dropping a single set, Nadal was up against compatriot and 14th seed Fernando Verdasco in the semi-finals. Roger Federer had already booked his place in the final and the world was eagerly expecting a repeat of their 2008 Wimbledon final.
Verdasco was enjoying the best form of his career as he beat Andy Murray in the 4th round and took put 2008 runner-up Jo-Wilfired Tsonga in the semi-finals. The first set lasted for about 75 minutes and Verdasco took it in the tie-break winning 4 points in a row after Nadal had won the first mini-break at 4-3. Nadal levelled the match in the 2nd set with a decisive break of serve. The pair traded a pair of breaks each in the 3rd set before Nadal won the tiebreaker. With the clock ticking past midnight, the 4th set too went to a tiebreak and Verdasco by now was struggling with cramps and had to call the trainer. However, he held on to level the match at 2 sets a piece. In the deciding set, Verdasco saved 5 break points early on in the 5th set and also managed to save 1 match point. But a double fault on Nadal's second match point gave Nadal the win after 5 hours and 14 minutes. The final score read 6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-6 (2), 6-7 (1), 6-4.
Below is the highlights of this epic clash between the two Spaniards :
# Ivo Karlovic vs Horacio Zeballos - 1st round, 2017
The tallest player on the ATP Tour at 6'11, Croat Ivo Karlovic has featured in many tiebreak sets over the years. He has the best serve on the Tour and also leads the Most Aces tally of all-time. Karlovic was the 20th seed and his first round match was against unseeded Argentine Horacio Zeballos. The match saw two records being created - Ivo karlovic set the benchmark for the most aces in an Australian Open match with 75 (4th highest in all Grand Slams) and secondly the match with 84 games played in total overtook the previous highest tally of 83 games (Andy Roddick vs Younes El Aynaoui, 2003 quarter-final) at the Australian Open.
The Croatian giant, Ivo Karlovic came back from two sets down to win the match in 5 sets. With the temperature hovering around 37 degree Celsius, Karlovic, the 37-year-old managed to win the final set 22-20. The final score read 6-7(6) 3-6 7-5 6-2 22-20 and lasted 5 hours and 22 minutes.
# Novak Djokovic vs Rafael Nadal – Final, 2012
Regarded by many to be the greatest Grand Slam match of all-time, the 2012 finals match-up between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal is not only the longest Australian Open match of all-time, it is also the longest Grand Slam final across all eras. going into the final, Djokovic had already spent 4 hours and 50 minutes on court in his semi-final win over Andy Murray. But Djokovic had gotten the better off Nadal on 6 of their previous meetings.
The match was simply a treat to watch and even in the 5th set, a 32 shot rally was produced by the two 'Iron Men' much to the amazement of the audience.
Nadal managed to break Djokovic twice in the first set and took the set 7-5 despite losing his own serve once. The second and third set saw a ruthless Djokovic find his groove on serve to take both sets comfortably. At 4-3 in the fourth set, Nadal was facing defeat at 0-40 on his own serve against the greatest returner of serve that tennis has ever had. It was then that Nadal found some extra reserve of energy and began hitting winners on his forehand from ridiculous angles. He saved the breakpoints and levelled the score at 4-4. He rapturously punched the air and was cheered by the Australian crowd who wanted a fifth set.
Nadal had the momentum and the crowd support and used it to level the match by taking the 4th set in a tiebreaker. The 5th set was a see-saw clash as Nadal raced to a 4-2 lead by breaking Djokovic. But the defending champion was gifted the break in the next game with an uncharacteristic forehand error from Nadal. Djokovic, the relentless warrior, broke Nadal again and saved a break point on his own serve with a thunderous inside-out forehand before finally winning the match. The final score read 5–7, 6–4, 6–2, 6–7 (5–7), 7–5 as the match lasted 5 hours and 53 minutes.