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Fiery Kiefer Prevails in Marathon Match

Only 23 minutes shy of the tournament record, he ousts Grosjean, 6-3, 0-6, 6-4, 6-7 (1), 8-6, in 4 hours 48 minutes.

January 25, 2006|Lisa Dillman | Times Staff Writer

MELBOURNE, Australia — Well, Omar Camporese and Boris Becker can rest easy.

Their names are still in the Australian Open record books for having played the longest match at the tournament, in terms of time, going 5 hours 11 minutes, with Becker winning, 14-12, in the fifth set of the third round in 1991.

Give credit to Nicolas Kiefer of Germany and Sebastien Grosjean of France for at least taking a run at it. Kiefer defeated Grosjean, 6-3, 0-6, 6-4, 6-7 (1), 8-6, in the quarterfinals today at the Australian Open, needing 4 hours 48 minutes, the longest match of this year's tournament .

It is the first time Kiefer has reached the semifinals of a Grand Slam event, and this is his 35th major. Not only did he do it the hard way, the 28-year-old German did it the heated way, threatening to become the sport's newest bad boy. Already, he has been fined $3,000 for unsportsmanlike conduct in one match, and $2,000 for obscenities in another.

Kiefer didn't temper his act against Grosjean, and became involved in a strange incident in which he tossed his racket over the net after a point in the 12th game of the fifth set. Grosjean, who lost the point, asked for a hindrance call, but the chair umpire and a supervisor denied his request. At least one TV replay appeared to show the tossed racket was not in Grosjean's line of vision.

As for Grosjean, he appears to be haunted by close calls at this venue. In 2001, he held two match points against countryman Arnaud Clement in the semifinals and lost in five sets.

Kiefer will play either top-seeded Roger Federer of Switzerland or No. 6 Nikolay Davydenko of Russia in the semifinals. The other semifinal will feature No. 4 David Nalbandian of Argentina and showman Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus, who has become the breakthrough star of the event and darling of the local Greek and Cypriot community.

The 20-year-old Baghdatis, who upset No. 2 Andy Roddick in the fourth round, was tested to the fullest against No. 7 Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia, pulling himself together in the fifth set, finishing at about 1:15 in the morning at Rod Laver Arena. He won, 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 3-6, 6-3, in 3 hours 17 minutes.

"In Cyprus especially, it's just amazing," Baghdatis said. "Everybody's in the streets right now."

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