Epic Duels Down Under: Longest Matches in AO History
The Australian Open, which typically takes place in Melbourne in mid-January, marks the beginning of the Grand Slam season. Lasting for two weeks, it is unique for being the first Grand Slam tournament and has the flexibility to continue matches indoors in the event of rain or extreme heat during the Australian summer.
All three main courts—Rod Laver Arena, John Cain Arena, and Margaret Court Arena—feature retractable roofs. Referred to as the 'Happy Slam,' a term popularized by six-time champion Roger Federer, this nickname encapsulates the tournament's appeal. Many players are eager to participate, and spectators also find joy in witnessing live tennis action.
The Australian Open stands out not only as a competitive event but also as a source of happiness for both players and fans, especially given its status as the inaugural Grand Slam of the season. Let’s countdown the top five longest matches at the Australian Open:-
(5) Rafael Nadal vs Fernando Verdasco: 5 hours and 14 minutes
In a marathon encounter lasting 5 hours and 14 minutes, Rafael Nadal faced off against Fernando Verdasco during the 2009 Australian Open. Despite already having five Grand Slam titles, Nadal had yet to secure a victory on a hard court.
Approaching the semi-finals as the World No. 1, Nadal had smoothly advanced without dropping a set. His opponent, compatriot Fernando Verdasco, also showcased impressive form, winning his initial matches in straight sets and overcoming Andy Murray in the fourth round. The semifinal clash saw them split the first two sets. Nadal claimed the third set in a tiebreaker, while Verdasco secured the fourth set despite battling severe cramps that necessitated treatment on the sidelines.
As the clock ticked past midnight, the intense match continued without a halt. Ultimately, Nadal emerged victorious with a 6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-6 (2), 6-7 (1), 6-4 triumph. This hard-fought victory propelled Nadal to clinch the Australian Open title, marking his first of two championships in Melbourne.
(4) Ivo Karlovic vs Horacio Zeballos: 5 hours and 22 minutes
In the opening round of the 2017 Australian Open, the 20th-seeded Ivo Karlovic faced the unseeded Horacio Zeballos in a remarkable contest that lasted 5 hours and 22 minutes. Known for holding the record for the most aces in tennis history at that time, Karlovic was considered a formidable server. Against expectations, Zeballos managed to claim the first two sets, defying the odds and surprising the favorite, Karlovic. Responding resiliently, the Croatian player rebounded to win the next two sets, forcing the match into a decisive fifth set. The already grueling encounter escalated further as the fifth set unfolded, witnessing a total of 42 games. Ultimately, Karlovic emerged victorious with a 6-7(6), 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, 22-20 triumph after 5 hours and 22 minutes on the court. This historic match etched its name in the records, as Karlovic's 75 aces set an Australian Open record, and the 84 games played during the five sets established a new benchmark for the highest number of games in a single match at the Grand Slam event.
(3) Rafael Nadal vs Daniil Medvedev: 5 hours and 24 minutes
In the 2022 Australian Open finals, Rafael Nadal faced off against Daniil Medvedev in a marathon match that lasted 5 hours and 24 minutes. Medvedev, the runner-up in the 2021 event, entered the finals as the reigning Grand Slam champion after winning the 2021 US Open.
On the other hand, Nadal, aiming for his second Australian Open title since his 2009 victory, had endured four losses in Australian Open finals since then, heightening his desire for another title. Medvedev took an early lead by claiming the first set 6-2 and securing the second set with a victory in the tiebreaker. Holding a 2-0 set advantage, he appeared poised for a straight-set win.
In the third set, Nadal faced a challenging moment as Medvedev led 3-2 with a triple break point. However, Nadal demonstrated resilience, leveling the set at 3-3 before ultimately winning it 6-4. The fourth set unfolded as a tightly contested battle, with Nadal emerging victorious to force the finals into a decisive fifth set.
Despite serving for the championship at 5-4, Nadal couldn't convert as Medvedev forced the 12th game. Nadal, however, held his serve at 6-5, securing the title and making history as the first man ever to claim 21 Grand Slam titles. This record would later be surpassed at the 2022 French Open. The epic match concluded at 1:11 a.m. local time.
(2) Andy Murray vs Thanasi Kokkinakis: 5 hours and 45 minutes
In the second round of the 2023 Australian Open, Andy Murray and Thanasi Kokkinakis engaged in an epic showdown at the Margaret Court Arena, lasting an astonishing five hours and 45 minutes.
Despite losing the first two sets and having recently completed a four-hour and 45-minute first-round match, Murray defied expectations by staging a remarkable comeback. The intense battle concluded at 4:06 a.m. local time, with Murray ultimately securing a hard-fought victory with a scoreline of 4-6, 6-7(7), 7-6(5), 6-3, 7-5.
This victory marked Murray's longest-ever match. Although the encounter fell short by just 8 minutes of becoming the longest Australian Open match, it will be remembered in history for the incredible competitiveness displayed by both players throughout the marathon contest.
(1) Novak Djokovic vs Rafael Nadal: 5 hours and 53 minutes
The 2012 Australian Open finals between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal holds the distinction of being the longest Grand Slam final in the Open Era, lasting an impressive 5 hours and 53 minutes. Widely regarded as one of the greatest tennis matches ever, the stakes were high as Nadal, a 10-time Grand Slam champion, sought his second Australian Open title, while Djokovic, with four Grand Slam titles and the defending champion that year, aimed to maintain his dominance.
Djokovic's journey to the finals saw him reaching the fourth round without dropping a set, winning his round of 16 matches in four sets, and securing a quarter-final victory in straight sets. He faced a five-set challenge against Murray in the semi-finals to secure his spot in the finals. Meanwhile, Nadal navigated through the quarterfinals and semi-finals without dropping a set, including a notable win over Federer in the semis. The intense final match saw the players splitting the first four sets, leading to an electric atmosphere as they entered the fifth set.
Despite Nadal holding a 4-2 lead and appearing poised for victory, Djokovic staged a remarkable comeback, displaying a powerful forehand approach at the net. The Serbian emerged triumphant with a 5–7, 6–4, 6–2, 6–7 (5–7), and 7–5 victory after nearly 6 hours of play. The presentation ceremony reflected the physical toll of the marathon match, with both players needing chairs as they struggled to stand. Djokovic's victory was celebrated in front of an enthusiastic crowd, capping off a historic and memorable Australian Open final.
In the realm of tennis, the Australian Open has been the stage for gripping confrontations that have given rise to unforgettable moments. Whether it's Rafael Nadal's intense clash with Fernando Verdasco or Novak Djokovic's historic triumph over Nadal, these matches serve as symbols of the enduring thrill of the sport.
Nadal's unwavering determination on the hard court was evident in his 2009 battle with Verdasco, while Djokovic's marathon victory in the 2012 Australian Open final holds a special place in tennis history as the longest Grand Slam final in the Open Era.
Fast forward to 2023, and Andy Murray's remarkable comeback against Thanasi Kokkinakis added another layer to the tournament's legacy, underscoring the tenacity and competitive spirit of these tennis luminaries. These contests, teeming with suspense and endurance, have etched a lasting imprint on the rich tapestry of sporting excellence at the Australian Open.
Cover Credit - Australian Open Official