GENEVA, SWITZERLAND: Tennis record books were re-written on Saturday after the doubles match involving Switzerland and the Czech Republic lasted more than seven hours.
It was the defending champions who emerged victorious 64 57 64 6(3)7 2422 with the Czech pair Tomas Berdych and Lukas Rosol finally getting the better of Stanislas Wawrinka and Marco Chiudinelli after an energy-sapping, nerve-jangling, thrill-filled seven hours and one minute.
At the end of it all, the Czechs find themselves 2-1 ahead, with the reverse singles to come on Sunday. That’s if the players have any gas left in the tank.
The Palexpo crowd were made to stay late, but they witnessed a slice of tennis history, as four players gave it their all in the second longest match of all time (behind Isner and Mahut’s Wimbledon marathon).
Switzerland withstood enormous pressure in the fifth set, and somehow staved off 12 match points, but match point number 13 proved one too many, and when Chiudinelli cruelly double-faulted, a new tale in tennis folklore had been created.
Berdych said: “I have never played tennis that long. I like it because I now have a new experience but we still need one more point, so let’s go again Sunday.”
As expected, Czech captain Jaroslav Navratil opted to switch his doubles pairing, preferring the more experienced Berdych and Rosol, over Jiri Vesely and Ivo Minar.
A much more even contest was therefore expected, and that is exactly what we got.
Berdych and Rosol took the first set 64, after breaking in game nine. That break came courtesy of a well-disguised backhand down the line from Berdych, which left the Swiss pair wrong-footed.
Wawrinka and Chiudinelli did have break-back points in game 10 but wasted the opportunity as the visitors edged in front.
Switzerland started the second set strongly, and broke as early as game two. The break met with a huge roar from Wawrinka and the Geneva crowd.
The crowd were soon silenced with the Czech Republic breaking straight back. Rosol’s great invention brought up break point, before a service return from Berdych – down at the feet of Wawrinka – was simply too good. A frustrated Wawrinka bounced his racket off the court en route to his chair.
Another opportunity presented itself in game eight, with two break points on the Berdych serve. Berdych responded. Danger averted.
With an edgy-looking Rosol serving in game 10, Switzerland watched a set point go begging, but they finally got the breakthrough they deserved when Wawrinka wrapped his right wrist over a backhand cross-court to break the Berdych serve and seal the second set 75.
Chiudinelli was clearly pleased, dropping to one knee and pumping his fist in delight.
Break point opportunities presented themselves once again in set three. Berdych saved three on his serve. Wawrinka was unable to follow suit, and that was enough for the Czech pair to move 2-1 ahead.
Tense and tight throughout, you could close your eyes and sense the pattern of play purely from the reaction of the emotional crowd inside the Palexpo Arena.
Switzerland sneaked the fourth set via the tie-break, though they had an earlier chance in game 10, and the draining duel was going the distance – and boy, did it go the distance.
A deciding fifth set was required, and after more than seven hours of pulsating drama, so too was a lie down in a darkened room.
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Tomas Berdych and Lukas Rosol (CZE) - 02/02/2013
Marco Chiudinelli (SUI) - 02/02/2013
Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI) - 02/02/2013