Saturday 21 April 2018

Tennis: Longest match ever goes on at Wimbledon

John Isner and Nicolas Mahut will continue their round one tie which has now entered its third day. Photo: Getty Images
John Isner and Nicolas Mahut will continue their round one tie which has now entered its third day. Photo: Getty Images

Brendan Gallagher

Nicolas Mahut and John Isner – unknown to the wider sporting world yesterday, household names this morning – will drag their weary bodies back on to court at Wimbledon this evening to resume the longest match in tennis history.

A string of tennis records were blown away as Mahut and Isner came off court on at Wimbledon on Wednesday at 59-59 in the final set, having slugged it out for 10 hours when play was suspended as they ran out of daylight.

Later today they will try and close out the most remarkable game in tennis history when they will be the third game of the day on Court 18.

The only true comparison anybody can think of was the famous "Timeless Test" between South Africa and England in Durban in 1939 when both teams decided to play the game out to a conclusion but had to halt that process after ten days when the England boat left for home.

Tennis fans packed out the 782-capacity Court 18 yesterday with people lining the roof of the Wimbledon broadcasting centre several deep, and straining to peer through any gaps they could to catch a glimpse of the epic match. Today both the proceeding games will be played to full houses as fans try and "bag" a seat for the Mahut-Isner shoot out later.

The unfinished fifth set itself was longer than the previous longest match ever played. That match took six hours and 33 minutes. The shattered record was set at the 2004 French Open, when Fabrice Santoro beat fellow Frenchman Arnaud Clement 6-4, 6-3, 6-7, 3-6, 16-14.

"Nothing like this will ever happen again, ever," said an exhausted Isner, while Mahut added: "We played for too long."

The conclusion of the historic encounter will take the spotlight later on Thursday, but earlier attention will be fixed firmly on Centre Court when British number one Andy Murray is set to play in front of Queen Elizabeth.

Murray, the world No 4 takes on Finland's Jarkko Nieminen in a second-round match due to start at 1pm with the British monarch expected to watch from the Royal Box.

Records that fell

* There were unconfirmed suggestions from the International Tennis Federation that this is the "longest official tennis match in history".

* It is definitely the longest Grand Slam match, surpassing the previous record of six hours and 33 minutes at the 2004 French Open (Fabrice Santoro bt Arnaud Clement).

* According to the BBC, the fifth set is the longest ever to have been played in a tennis match.

* It has seen the most number of games ever played in a match, beating the previous highest of 112 (singles) and 122 (doubles).

* It is the longest match at Wimbledon, beating six hours and nine minutes, set in the 2006 men's doubles quarter-finals.

* It has featured the longest set at Wimbledon. The previous longest was 62 games, set in a men's doubles match in 1968.

* It has seen the record number of aces served in a match at Wimbledon, with both players beating Ivo Karlovic's 51 in 2005.

Other epic games

Pancho Gonzalez v Charlie Pasarell, Wimbledon (1968)

The previous Wimbledon record, which most thought would never be broken after the introduction of tie-breaks. The veteran Gonzalez and the dashing Pasarell tussled for over five hours before the younger man finally triumphed 22-24 1-6 16-14 6-3 11-9.

Bjorn Borg v John McEnroe, Wimbledon (1980)

A sprint compared to yesterday's marathon, the Swede won his fifth and final Wimbledon crown in one of the all-time classics. Everyone remembers the epic fourth set tie-break, which McEnroe eventually won 18-16.

Vicki Nelson-Dunbar v Jean Hepner, Richmond (1984)

The final score, 6-4 7-6, barely hints at the agony. This attritional encounter in a minor US tournament stretched to six and a half hours, with one rally containing 243 strokes and lasting half an hour.

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