The Longest Match in History

Jun 24, 2010

Desperate for that summer bikini body? Wanting to get rid of some of the midriff flab? Allergic to any form of physical exercise? I have the perfect solution: watch John Isner play Nicolas Mahut, and I guarantee the pounds will shed as you sweat and twitch from nerves and pure exhaustion. The longest match in tennis history – a staggering 11 hours and five minutes over three days –  was wearily won by the big American Isner. Many who read this and hadn’t heard of the match may think the scoreline you are about to read is a typo, but I can assure you it isn’t: the final score settled at 6-4 3-6 6-7 (7-9) 7-6 (7-3) 70-68. It’s exhausting just reading that, never mind actually having to play it.

The match past rather unnoticed on its first day. It was when it became obvious that day two wasn’t going to finish the match off that the crowd and the audiences around the world began to realise what exactly was happening. No man was breaking the other’s serve, with the pair were both playing the services games of their lives, and as the day dwindled on day two the shock and awe at exactly how long this match had gone on for – and could continue to go on for – finally sank in. Isner started to move like the court was a pool of treacle, and with each lumber towards the court it seemed that Mahut had the advantage. He skipped and jumped whilst Isner traipsed and lolloped. Mercifully for the two athletes, the match was drawn to a close as the light dimmed, halted at an unbelievable 59-59. The old legends were dragged in to weight in their opinions; after all, they know exactly what kind of talent and strength it takes to play at this level, although even none them knew how it felt to play a match that lasted 11 hours 5 minutes.

The third day was another race to break the other’s serve, and after a day of revitalising and refreshing, Isner pulled through. In the 138th game, Isner broke through Mahut’s impressive defence, and it was all over. I’m not quite sure who truly one in this match; Mahut was obviously very disappointed, but at least now he can get some rest, whereas Isner is off tomorrow to play Thiemo De Bakker. A few days ago we would have called De Bakker’s win in the fifth set at 16-14 a ‘marathon’ match. Isner and Mahut put a stop to that. The Frenchman did not, however, take the loss as an opportunity to get lazy; Mahut was out on court (what drove him to go on with that is beyond me) with his doubles partner Arnaud Clement. What it made it even worse was that play was suspended whilst they were down 7-6 (7-4). Another drawn out match for Nicolas Mahut.

One person on that court who wouldn’t have trimmed down his figure due to the epic match would be the umpire; Mohamed Lahyani sat in the chair the entire 11 hours and five minutes that the players were on court, and received an award for his patience, skill and concentration over the extensive match. Isner and Mahut both received awards for their record-breaking achievement, with the All England tennis club proud to have such an auspicious event happen on their grass. The ceremony was strange, surreal, and felt so out of place on Court 18. It was like watching the men’s singles finals. Both men – one victorious and beaming, the other disappointed and smiling tightly – receiving awards for an amazing achievement that left them dead on their feet.

But it wasn’t just the extent of the match that broke the records; Isner finished the match having served 112 aces, with Mahut reaching 103, and so both of them broke the previous record (Ivo Karlovic’s 78) by a mile and a half.

It’s quite unbelievable what records these men managed to achieve in just a single match, and a second round match at that. I doubt we’ll be seeing something that’s anything similar to that for a long time to come.

- SophieG

Written by: SophieG

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