(Your eyes do not deceive you. The score behind Isner is a "68." That's the amount of games won in the 5th set by the guy who LOST. Insanity.)
As I mentioned in my last post, 5-setters have been quite common this Wimbledon, but I'd be remiss if I didn't dedicate a separate blog entry to the most insane 5 setter in the history of tennis. I say that without hyperbole. This one will be in the record books for a long long time. It seems unfathomable that a match could last longer and have higher stats than this one. It seems unfathomable that it happened at all.
Of course I refer to the marathon 1st Round match at Wimbledon between American John Isner and Frenchman Nicolas Mahut. The match lasted a whopping 11 hours:5 minutes over the course of three days. Play went so long it was suspended twice not because of rain, but because of darkness. Tuesday went by with no winner. Wednesday went by with no winner. It was crazy.
I first saw the match on TV after the US won its third world cup game. Looking at the score, I was confused. Why did it say the score in the 5th set was 44-43? It didn't make any sense. One of the people in my office explained that they'd been playing for almost two straight days. Wimbledon of course has that fun rule that the 5th set can't be determined by a tiebreak. One player has to win by two games. The problem here was that neither player could break serve, so the score just kept piling up game after game after game. It was unbelievable, and kind of exhausting to watch. I can't for the life of me understand how both players maintained such fitness as the hours rolled by. As they passed the 100 game mark in the fifth set, I was astounded. The scoreboard freaked out. It couldn't deal with it anymore and reset as if a new set had started. I understand how it was feeling. You can win a whole match just by capturing just 18 games and here each player had almost tripled that amount won in the 5th set alone. Who could of thought it possible?
Play resumed (for the second time) on Thursday, on what had become a jam-packed Court 18. The score was 59-all in the 5th set. The two players went at it for 20 more games and an additional hour of play before Isner finally won: 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (3), 70-68.
Isner finished with 112 aces, and Mahut was no slouch with 103. Both totals far surpassed the previous match record of 78. They combined to hold for a staggering 168 games in a row.
The duration of fifth set on its own lasted 8 hours, 11 minutes, which was enough to beat the previous longest match altogether. That distinction used to be a 2004 French Open Match that was 6 hours, 33 minutes long. That seems like nothing in comparison!
“We played the greatest match ever in the greatest place to play tennis,” Mahut said. “John deserved to win. He just served unbelievable.”
Isner told the press he felt “completely delirious” by the end of play Wednesday and who could expect otherwise?
The last shot shot came at 4:48 p.m. on Thursday — almost two full days from when the match began. Both players got a well-deserved standing ovation and Isner and Mahut shared a long hug at net as they took in this once-in-a-lifetime moment,
“It’s something Nic and I will share forever,” Isner said. “I don’t think I’ve ever said five words to the guy prior to our match—not that he’s a bad guy. Now when I do see him in the locker room at other tournaments, we’ll always be able to share that.”
Isner had the unenviable task of playing AGAIN today, as his side of the bracket was backlogged by his never-ending 1st round match. As you'd expect, Isner had nothing left in the tank and lost to Theimo De Bakker in three quick sets - 6-0, 6-3, 6-2. Still you have to applaud the effort of such an amazing record-breaking first round match. Both players were phenomenal. Such a feat may never happen again. I wish them both a well-deserved rest and good luck for the rest of the season.