22-20! Rybakina & Blinkova set Grand Slam record with UNBELIEVABLE Australian Open tiebreaker
World No.3 and former Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina has been dumped out of the Australian Open in the second round after losing the longest singles tiebreaker in grand slam history.
Runner-up to Aryna Sabalenka at Melbourne Park last year, Rybakina fended off nine match points against Russian Anna Blinkova but couldn’t manage a 10th, falling 22-20 in the match tiebreaker on Thursday night.
The epic beat the previous record for the longest tiebreaker at a major of 20-18, set by Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko and Hungarian Anna Bondar at Wimbledon last year.
Blinkova twice served for the match earlier in the third set but the 24-year-old Kazakh broke back each time.
Down 17-18 in the super tiebreaker, the 25-year-old Blinkova won an extraordinary 17-shot rally in which Rybakina had her running to all parts of the court.
Down 18-17, facing match point and Anna Blinkova does this…
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 18, 2024
In all, Blinkova saved six match points of her own before posting the biggest win of her career.
“I just tried to stay focused on every point,” said Blinkova after her 6-4 4-6 7-6 (22-20) triumph in front of a raucous Rod Laver Arena crowd.
“I had so many match points and I tried to be aggressive in these moments but my hands were shaking and my legs too.”
Blinkova described the tiebreak as “endless” and admitted “negative thoughts” crept into her head after failing to convert so many match points.
“I heard that this is the longest tiebreak ever – it’s crazy,” she said.
Rybakina said she had never played such a long tiebreaker and was proud of her fight.
“I was a bit unlucky,” she said.
“We both had so many opportunities but it didn’t go my way.
“It was not my best tennis … next time hopefully it’s going to go my way.”
She alluded to playing with unspecified “issues” but stressed they were not an excuse for her sub-par performance.
Blinkova had previously beaten a top-10 player twice – then-world No.8 Belinda Bencic in 2020 and fifth-seeded Caroline Garcia at last year’s French Open – but never one as highly-ranked as Rybakina.
The world No.57 has not progressed beyond the third round of a grand slam before but will get a fourth shot against Italian No.26 Jasmine Paolini, who beat German Tatjana Maria 6-2 6-3 earlier on Thursday.