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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Graf Beats Sanchez Vicario in Marathon Final

PARIS -- It looked like Steffi Graf and that immovable object called Arantxa Sanchez Vicario might play all night.


Back and forth they went in the third set until, finally, after a record 3 hours and 3 minutes and a record 40 games, Sanchez Vicario plunked a tired backhand into the net to give Graf her fifth French Open title.


Fighting back from 4-2 down in the third set and twice breaking Sanchez Vicario as she served for the match, the defending champion raised her game when she needed it most and prevailed 6-3, 6-7 (7-4), 10-8 in a classic women's final Saturday.


"It was an incredible feeling," Graf said of the near unanimous support she received from the center court crowd. "When they were cheering, 'Steffi! Steffi!' during the changeovers, that was pretty special. I just wanted to laugh I enjoyed it so much."


It was the longest ever women's championship match at Roland Garros, both in duration and games.


The 40 games surpassed the 38 of the 1955 final, won by Angela Mortimer over Dorothy Knode, 2-6, 7-5, 10-8. Timewise, the match was five minutes longer than the 1989 final, when Sanchez Vicario beat Graf in 2:58. Saturday's third set alone lasted 81 minutes.


In another milestone, Graf won her 19th Grand Slam singles title to move past Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert into a second-place tie with Helen Wills Moody on the all-time list -- five behind leader Margaret Smith Court.


"I think it is incredible, but I really can't focus on that record right now," said Graf, who also tied Smith Court with five French Open titles, two behind Evert. "The match today overwhelms the record right now."


Graf, the top seed, and Sanchez Vicario, No. 4, have played several memorable Grand Slam finals. But Graf said this one rated even higher than her win over the Spaniard in last year's Wimbledon final, which included a 20-minute game of 32 points.


At the trophy presentation, Graf spoke in French, saying, "I want to thank the public for the support you've given me for the last 14 years."


Then, after mentioning her coach, Heinz Gunthardt, and her mother Heidi, Graf thanked "my father back home."


She looked skyward and had tears in her eyes after speaking of her father, Peter, who has been in jail in Germany since last August on charges of tax evasion. Saturday's match was the 35th time Graf and Sanchez Vicario have met, including the 24th time in a final, the sixth time in a Grand Slam final and the third time in the French Open final.


Graf dominated the first set in 37 minutes, but Sanchez Vicario fought back in the second. Scrambling all over the court, running down Graf's forehand drives, the Spaniard forced the second set into a tiebreaker.


Graf raced ahead 4-1, just three points from closing out the match. Then it all fell apart for Graf as she dropped six straight points, making five straight errors and double faulting on set point.


Sanchez Vicario broke in the fifth game of the third set and saved a break point in the sixth to go up 4-2. Then, in what proved to be the turning point, Graf saved two break points in the seventh game.


She saved the first break point with a forehand that hit the line and erased the second by moving in on a short ball for a forehand winner.


Sanchez Vicario served for the match at 5-4, but lost the first two points and was broken for 5-5. She broke for a 7-6 lead and served for the match again. This time, Graf broke her at love for 7-7.


The two went back and forth on serve until the 18th game. Sanchez was up 30-0, but Graf turned it around with a perfect backhand drop shot, and broke to end the contest.


After the two hugged across the net, Graf tossed her racket into the stands and climbed up to embrace her coach and mother in the players' box.


(For other results, see Scorecard.)