Isner And Mahut Play Longest Match In History
It was too late to finish their tight match on their scheduled day. Darkness was overcoming court 18 as the top seeds played their matches under the lights of centre court. John Isner and Nicholas Mahut were locked in a tight struggle, Mahut the veteran, Isner America’s new hope. The curtains were closed with Isner leading 6-3 4-6 6-7 7-6. Nobody had a clue the drama the next day would bring.
Isner and Mahut started the fifth set the following day with aces, huge forehands, and short points. It seemingly never ended. At 16-14 memories of last year’s Wimbledon final flooded back to viewers. At 21-20 a new world record was broken, it was the longest men’s fifth set ever. It wasn’t over. The points stayed short, the rallies brief, break point chances rare. The match points Isner did earn were dashed away with huge serves or well-placed volleys. It was a match of power without the finesse, retrieving, and heart-stopping rallies often seen at the high levels of the modern game. What it didn’t lack was plenty of heart, courage, and an amazing ability of both players to hold their nerve. Not to mention plenty of drama. At 50-49 the Wimbledon scoreboards broke down, the umpire had been six hours without leaving his seat, and no player looked ready to give way for any length of time. At 56 all the match hit the nine and a half hour mark, blasting away the previous world record of 6 and a half hours. Hundreds of winners had been hit, hundreds of aces too, and both players had been remarkably stingy with unforced errors. It may not have been graceful tennis, but it tennis played for the conservation of body and energy. In the fifth set nobody had been broken, not a single injury time-out called.
At 56 all the match was still too close to call, World Cup matches had started and ended, Wimbledon continued as normal. Isner and Mahut were locked in nothing but an extraordinary battle. 9pm rolled around and as the sky darkened, people began to wonder if play would be finished that night. At 58-59 on Mahut’s serve Isner had a match point. Mahut saved it with an ace. After ten hours and standing at 59 all, the match was called off due to darkness. They had broken all sorts of records but still hadn’t managed to finish the match. They were full of praise for each other at the conclusion of the day’s play, saying they were looking forward to seeing statistics, Isner even saying that a match this long would ‘never, ever, happen again’. What remains to be seen is how long exactly this match will go, play will continue on Thursday, nobody can guess what the outcome will be.