Simona Halep and Dominika Cibulkova shine as the marathon women of the year


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Simona Halep and Dominika Cibulkova shine as the marathon women of the year

Anna Karolina Schmiedlova and Dominika Cibulkova were the iron-woman of the WTA Tour this season, as they feature in four of the five longest matches in 2018. Simona Halep, however, reigned with her victory over Lauren Davis in the third round and the third longest women's singles match in the Australian Open's history.

In the fifth longest match of the year, Claro Open Colsanitias champion Anna Karolina Schmiedlova claimed a comeback 4-6 7-6(4) 7-5 upset win over No.6 seed Ana Bogdan in Bucharest. The Romanian, playing for the first time in front of her home crowd as a Top 100, served out for the match in the second set.

Schmiedlova, who led 5-1 in the second before losing six straight games and the ensuing tiebreak, moved 3-1 ahead in the decider and needed three match points to seal the win. “It was definitely one of the toughest matches in my life,” said Schmiedlova.

“I think it was a good match, I tried to stay focused because it is not easy to play at such an hour. I'm happy that we could play and that many people came to see us, it was a very beautiful atmosphere. The Slovak, who owns an 8-7 overall record in deciding sets this season but is 2-3 in matches lasting more than two hours and a half, lost to Begu 6-4 5-7 9-7 at Roland Garros in the fourth-longest match of the season, after 3 hours and 19 minutes of hard-fought battle.

Dominika Cibulkova needed exactly the same amount of time to defeat Hsieh Su-Wei 7-6 4-6 6-4 at the Us Open, despite two points' penalty having arrived one minute late from the 10-minute heat break. "It took me, I think, more than three minutes walking through the people, because there were so many fans and so many people," said Cibulkova.

"Is it my fault it takes so long to get from where you send me to go to change to the court? I think it's just not right." In the deciding set, she knew she had to go for her shots. “I couldn't wish for her mistake because she was not making any mistakes.

I just knew with all the conditions and with the way how I felt, I knew I have to go aggressively for it. And in the end, I served pretty, pretty well. The last two serving games, I served the best from the whole match”.

In such extreme conditions, she played one of the top three toughest matches in her career, as she admitted in the post-match press conference. “I think the level of tennis we played was really high, and it was just a matter of a few balls who could win that match.

So I'm happy I made it. When you win such a match, it gives you a lot of confidence because you know you didn't give up”. Cibulkova found herself on the losing end of the net in the Strasbourg final, beaten 6-7 7-6 7-6 by Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova after 3 hours and 36 minutes of gruelling tennis.

The Russian had to dig deep to claim her 12th WTA title in her 11th meeting with the Slovak, winner of seven previous matches against her. The Russian saved two match points at the end of the third set and held her nerve in a see-sawing tiebreak to prevail, firing 13 aces and 73 winners in the match.

But the honour of the most epic win of the season goes to Simona Halep who survived an epic battle with unseeded American Lauren Davis to reach the Australian Open fourth round. The world No,1 saved three match points in the decider before eventually winning 4-6 6-4 15-13 after three hours and 45 minutes.

The match ranks as the third longest women’s singles match ever at Australian Open, after the 2011 round 16 clashes Schiavone won over Kuznetsova in 4 hours and 44 minutes, and the 2010 first-round victory Strycova completed over Kulikova.

It was the joint longest women's singles match at Australian Open in terms of games played, tying the 1996 quarter-final between Chanda Rubin Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, which Rubin won 6-4 2-6 16-14. Halep served for the match at 5-4, 6-5 and 8-7 in the third set, that lasted alone 142 minutes, but was denied and later recovered from 0-40 at 11-10.

“I'm really, really proud of that, and I just say that this match meant a lot for me. Doesn't matter what is gonna happen now. I say that it's a big win in many ways, and I take it,” the Romanian said in the post-match press conference.

On the first match point, Davis started to suffer from an infection to her second toes. “I was just jamming them a lot with how much I was moving around the court,” she said after the encounter. “Yeah, that first match point just, I felt something and I couldn't really put any pressure -- it was my right toe, and then it eventually was my left toe, also.

The trainer wrapped them really well and I was able to move fine after that. I had never really had that happen before. They have been sore but not like that. As I said, I couldn't really put any pressure on them. It also took me by surprise because it came on so suddenly”.

The third set, Davis admitted, “was nothing really like I had ever played before, such an amazing atmosphere. It's definitely something to build on because I don't believe -- there is many more to come. Yeah, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I appreciate all of their support.

It just really pumps you up and gets you going. Especially when the score is like that and three-and-a-half hours into the match”. Halep kept playing and showed all her pride for the victory. The Romanian saved another two match points to beat Kerber in the semifinals at Melbourne and is believed to be the first player to save match points in multiple matches and reach a Grand Slam final.

Her hard-fought performances in Melbourne launched the best career season for the world No.1 who clinched her maiden major title and sealed a 16-4 record in three-set matches.

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