Blinkova upsets Rybakina in record-long tiebreaker at Australian Open Loop Jamaica

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Her hand and her legs were shaking, she’d missed nine match points but also saved six, and Anna Blinkova was 41 points into a wild tiebreaker that was the longest ever in a women’s Grand Slam event.

Elena Rybakina, last year’s Australian Open runner-up, was just as anxious on the other side of the net.

When Blinkova lunged to retrieve a backhand, aiming just to keep the rally alive, and Rybakina’s next backhand sailed wide, it finished off a 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (20) second-round victory Thursday that she’ll never, ever forget.

“It took me courage,” she said. “It took me some certain calmness to stay in the present moment and to play point by point no matter what happens.”

Rybakina, the 2022 Wimbledon champion who was runner-up here last year to Aryna Sabalenka, saved two match points in a third set that contained six service breaks.

Blinkova twice served for the match but couldn’t finish off, and a double-fault in the 12th game sent it to a 10-point tiebreaker. Once there, 13 minutes after her first match points, Blinkova had two more points at 9-7 but again Rybakina saved them, and so it went on.

Blinkova, smiling, later described it as the “endless tiebreaker.” It went on for 32 minutes until Rybakina’s backhand error ended it.

In terms of points — 42 — it was the longest tiebreaker ever in a women’s major.

“It was super tough. I had so many match points,” said Blinkova, who is ranked 57th and had 13 first-round exits in her previous 20 majors. “I tried to be aggressive but my hand was shaking. And my legs, too!

“I tried to be calm, as much as I could.”

It was one that Rybakina will dwell on, too. She knew she wasted chances.

But “I’m really proud that I could fight till the end,” Rybakina said. “I mean, you can’t always play perfect. And of course I could have lost it even earlier.”

It was a long, tough night for the tournament’s No. 3 seeds on Melbourne Park’s main court.

Daniil Medvedev had to rally from two sets down to beat Emil Ruusuvuori 3-6, 6-7 (1), 6-4, 7-6 (1), 6-0 in a 4-hour, 23-minute match that ended at 3:39 am local time.

Day 5 started with top-ranked Iga Swiatek had a narrow escape when she rallied from 4-1 down in the third set to beat 2022 runner-up Danielle Collins 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.

Swiatek was down two service breaks in the deciding set before she went on a five-game winning roll to finish off a match that featured wild momentum shifts and a 25-minute rain delay in 3 hours, 14 minutes.

“You can actually relax a little bit more because you know that, ‘OK, probably I’m going to lose, so I don’t care anymore,’” Swiatek said. “Then it’s easier.”

In her on-court interview, she joked: “Honestly, I was on the airport already.”

“But I wanted to fight to the end, she said. ”I’m really proud of myself.”

Collins announced soon after that 2024 would be her last season on tour.

“Yeah, I lost 6-4 in the third to one of the best players in the world,” Collins said. “And she played some great tennis. (I) left it all on the court.”

Swiatek, a four-time major winner, next faces No. 50-ranked Linda Noskova, who beat U.S. qualifier McCartney Kessler 6-3, 1-6, 6-4.

Fifth-ranked Jessica Pegula’s run of three consecutive quarterfinals in Australia was ended in a 6-4, 6-2 loss to Clara Burel. Her fellow American, 2017 U.S. Open winner Sloane Stephens, took out No. 14 seed Daria Kasatkina 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 and advanced along with No. 11 Jelena Ostapenko, No. 12 Zheng Qinwen, No. 19 Elina Svitolina and No. 27 Emma Navarro.

The 2021 U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu’s comeback major ended in a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 loss to Wang Yafan.

Wimbledon champion Carlos Alcaraz dropped a set for the first time in the tournament before recovering to beat Lorenzo Sonego 6-4, 6-7 (3), 6-3, 7-6 (3).

With a strong breeze to contend with, Alcaraz was tested by Lorenzo Sonego before coming through in four sets and will next face 18-year-old Chinese wildcard entry Shang Juncheng, who ousted India’s Sumit Nagal 2-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4.

It’ll be the first time on tour Alcaraz has faced a younger player.

“He beat some big guys,” Alcaraz said of Shang’s run to the semifinals in Hong Kong earlier this month. “So I know he has the level. He’s already there.”

Arthur Cazaux upset No. 8 Holger Rune 7-6 (4), 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 but No. 13 Grigor Dimitrov, No. 14 Tommy Paul, No. 19 Cameron Norrie, No. 21 Ugo Humbert and No. 27 Felix Auger-Aliassime all advanced.

Two earlier matches went the distance before being decided in 10-point tiebreakers: Olympic champion Alexander Zverev fended off Lukas Klein 7-5, 3-6, 4-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (7) in 4 1/2 hours and No. 11 Casper Ruud edged Max Purcell 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7).

“He played incredible. He was hitting every single ball as hard as he could from both sides,” Zverev said of Klein, a No. 163-ranked qualifier from Slovakia. “I didn’t really know what to do most of the times. To be honest, he probably deserved to win the match more than me today.”