The last time Francesca Schiavone and Svetlana Kuznetsova met on court was in last month's Australian Open, when the Italian beat the Russian after four hours and 44 minutes in the longest women's Grand Slam singles match in the Open era. They face each other again here today in the third round of the Dubai Duty Free Championships, with both women steeling themselves for a marathon.
"We always have long matches," Kuznetsova said. "It's always an interesting match, as we don't play boom-boom tennis. We play different kinds of spin."
Schiavone added: "I really want to play against her because we know each other and we play good tennis." Asked about the prospect of another epic, Schiavone joked: "After two hours I'll take my racket and put it in the bag."
Kuznetsova said that losing to Schiavone in Melbourne had been a big disappointment but added: "I think every single person who knows me watched it and came to me and said it was a great match. I think it would be amazing to play a match like this in a final one day – but with me winning."
While Schiavone had little trouble yesterday beating the Chinese qualifier, Zhang Shuai, 6-3, 6-1, Kuznetsova was detained for two and a half hours by Bulgaria's Tsevetana Pironkova before winning 5-7, 6-2, 6-4. Kuznetsova admitted she had struggled to find any consistency. "I was just playing well and then at some point I stopped, then I'd play well again," the 25-year-old Russian said. "It's just concentration. But if everybody could change it so easily then everybody would be very good."
Kuznetsova has had a difficult 12 months, having dropped 20 places to her current position at No 23 in the rankings.
Caroline Wozniacki's opening match ended in dramatic fashion when her opponent, Anna Chakvetadze, collapsed on the court. Having lost the first set 6-1, Chakvetadze was serving for the second at 5-3 when she fainted at the end of a long rally. The Russian had been unwell with a stomach virus. Although she quickly came round, Chakvetadze was still unsteady on her feet when she tried to resume after a medical time-out. She retired after only one more point.
Andy Murray has pulled out of the men's tournament here next week after hurting his left wrist last week in Rotterdam. The injury is not serious and the Scot should return for next month's Masters Series tournaments.