'Teletubbies' take 6hr 9min to win doubles marathon

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The Independent Online

It witnessed the longest grand slam doubles match ever played under the current rules - and very nearly the longest doubles match ever in history.

When Mark Knowles of the Bahamas served out to earn himself and his partner, Daniel Nestor of Canada, a place in the semifinals, he concluded a match that had taken six hours and nine minutes.

No wonder the two players celebrated with such enthusiasm, bumping tummies together like two Teletubbies as the scoreboard finally settled on their winning margin of 5-7, 6-3, 6-7, 6-3, 23-21. It was a bitter moment for the beaten pair, Simon Aspelin of Sweden and Todd Perry of Australia, but at least they will have the consolation of seeing their names in the record books too.

Had the match gone on for just 11 minutes longer it would have equalled the longest ever doubles known - 6hr 20min - when Lucas Arnold and David Nalbandian of Argentina beat Russia's Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Marat Safin 6-4, 6-4, 5-7, 3-6, 19-17 in the 2002 Davis Cup match.

The longest known men's doubles match in grand slams before yesterday was 5hr 29min, when Pieter Aldrich and Danie Visser beat Scott Davis and Robert Van't Hof at the Australian Open in 1990.

After numerous marathon matches, the tie-break was introduced in 1971 for sets - other than the concluding one - reaching 8-8, and that was altered to sets reaching 6-6 in 1979.

Meanwhile Naomi Cavaday, still drawing on her experience of giving Japan's Ai Sugiyama a run for her money in the first round of the main draw, reached the junior girls' quarter-finals yesterday by defeating Kristina Kucova of Slovakia, who knocked out the Russian favourite Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the first round.

Cavaday's 6-3, 7-6 victory means she is now the last remaining British junior still in the competition following yesterday's 6-2, 6-1 defeat for Julia Bone at the hands of the Russian No 3 seed, Alisa Kleybanova.

Thiemo De Bakker, the top seed in the boys' singles, has thus far managed to avoid the fate of his female counterpart.

He maintained his presence in the event in the opening match on Court 19, but only after dropping the opening set on a tie-break to Argentina's unseeded Emiliano Massa. The boy from the Netherlands responded to win 6-7, 6-3, 6-4.

Other matches that went distance

* Men's doubles record was 5hr 5min in 1985. Heinz Gunthardt and Balazs Taroczy beat Paul Annacone and Christo Van Rensburg. Final set: 24-22.

* Longest Grand Slam doubles was 5hr 29min at 1990 Australian Open. Pieter Aldrich and Danie Visser defeated Scott Davis and Robert Van't Hof. Final set: 23-21.

* Longest doubles in tennis history: 6hr 20min in 2002 Davis Cup between Argentina and Russia.

* Longest singles: Fabrice Santoro beat Arnaud Clément in 6hr 31min at 2004 French Open