Isner Edges Mahut in Titanic Marathon

by John on June 24, 2010

It’s over. The match that wouldn’t end finally did. It spanned three days, broke a myriad of tennis records and mercifully concluded when American John Isner hit a backhand – his 246th winner of the match – down the line to pass France’s Nicolas Mahut and win an epic first-round battle earlier today at Wimbledon. Picking up at 59-59 in the fifth set this afternoon, the match, which had begun to capture a world-wide audience yesterday, continued on serve with no break-point opportunities until Isner cracked the backhand winner. Relieved and exhausted, Isner collapsed on the court, putting an exclamation point on the longest tennis match on record. The No. 23-seeded American won 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (3), 70-68 in 11 hours and five minutes. Yes, 70-68. That is not a misprint. There were three service breaks in 183 games, totalling 980 points. There were 168 consecutive service games held between both players until Isner broke in the 183rd and final game of the match. The previous break of serve had been in the second game of the second set when Isner was broken at 0-1. The fifth set alone lasted eight hours and 11 minutes – longer than the previous longest match in tennis history, when Fabrice Santoro beat his French compatriot Arnaud Clement over six hours and 33 minutes in the first round of the 2004 French Open. Isner hit 112 aces to 103 for Mahut, there were 490 winners overall – including 244 for Mahut. On Wednesday, Isner had missed four match points in the fifth set – one at 10-9, two at 33-32 and one at 59-58. Afterward, Isner said of his vanquished opponent: “The guy’s an absolute warrior. It stinks someone had to lose. To share this with him was an absolute honor. Maybe we’ll meet again somewhere down the road and it won’t be 70-68.” Mahut, who is ranked No. 148 and had to qualify for the main draw, was gracious in defeat. “John deserved to win. He served unbelievable, he’s a champion,” the Frenchman said. “We played the greatest match ever. I thought he would make a mistake. I waited for that moment, and it never came.” They began at 6:09 p.m. Tuesday, but action was suspended after the fourth set because of darkness. After seven hours and six minutes of play on Wednesday, the match was suspended again at 59-59 in the final set. Isner’s reward for the win is a second-round encounter with Thiemo de Bakker of the Netherlands tomorrow.

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