June 24, 2010

Longest Tennis Match In History Ends On Third Day

John Isner defeated Nicolas Mahut today at Wimbledon, ending the longest match in tennis history 6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 70-68.

The match lasted 11 hours and five minutes, shattering the previous record for the longest match in history (Fabrice Santoro vs Arnaud Clement, 2004 French Open, 6:33). The fifth set alone lasted more than eight hours (8:11)!

The match began on Tuesday and was suspended after four sets because of darkness. The fifth set began yesterday at 2 PM, but seven hours later, it had not ended. So play was stopped because of darkness once again with the men tied 59-59. The match was completed today.

Among the many records set, Isner and Mahut obliterated the record for the longest set in Wimbledon history by 100 games (Mark Philippoussis vs Sjeng Schalken, 2000 Wimbledon, 20-18).

Isner, after play was stopped on Wednesday:
Nothing like this will ever happen again. Ever.
Roger Federer:
It's beyond anything I've ever seen and could imagine.
Geoff MacDonald, New York Times:
For many people the rest of the tournament has ceased to exist. This match has become its own reality.
When I first heard about this yesterday evening (at Jere's blog), I thought it was an attempt at a world's record, like the longest kiss or the longest time on a pogo-stick. But then it slowly sank in. It was Wimbledon. It was real!

It is next to impossible for me to comprehend this. I have been trying to think of even a rough baseball equivalent, but I'm coming up empty. A 35-pitch at-bat? An 90-inning game? I have no idea. Maybe the game portrayed in W.P. Kinsella's novel The Iowa Baseball Confederacy, in which the main character tries to find proof that the 1908 Chicago Cubs played an exhibition game against the Iowa Baseball Confederacy All-Stars that lasted over 2,000 innings.


laura k said...

It really is hard to comprehend. It seems impossible... yet it happened.

I wish I liked tennis, I'd appreciate this even more. But even seriously disliking tennis, this is mindboggling.

Doesn't it make you wish DFW were here to write about?

allan said...

The Guardian's live blog was highly amusing:

"4.05pm: The Isner-Mahut battle is a bizarre mix of the gripping and the deadly dull. It's tennis's equivalent of Waiting For Godot, in which two lowly journeymen comedians are forced to remain on an outside court until hell freezes over and the sun falls from the sky. Isner and Mahut are dying a thousand deaths out there on Court 18 and yet nobody cares, because they're watching the football. So the players stand out on their baseline and belt aces past each-other in a fifth set that has already crawled past two hours. They are now tied at 18-games apiece.

On and on they go. Soon they will sprout beards and their hair will grow down their backs, and their tennis whites will yellow and then rot off their bodies. And still they will stand out there on Court 18, belting aces and listening as the umpire calls the score. Finally, I suppose, one of them will die."

allan said...

In his Federer piece, Wallace opened with a description of himself watching the man on TV:

"... Federer had to send that ball down a two-inch pipe of space in order to pass him, which he did, moving backwards, with no setup time and none of his weight behind the shot. It was impossible. It was like something out of "The Matrix." I don't know what-all sounds were involved, but my spouse says she hurried in and there was popcorn all over the couch and I was down on one knee and my eyeballs looked like novelty-shop eyeballs."

It sounds like -- and from the highlights i saw -- that it wasn't so much brilliant tennis as it wore on, since both men were totally whipped and saving their strength for serves, but simply the unprecedented back and forth for more than 7 hours (!!!).

From Infinite Jest:

"The true opponent, the enfolding boundary, is the player himself. Always and only the self out there, on court, to be met, fought, brought to the table to hammer out terms. The competing boy on the net's other side: he is not the foe: he is more the partner in the dance. He is the what is the word excuse or occasion for meeting the self. As you are his occasion. Tennis's beauty's infinite roots are self-competitive. You compete with your own limits to transcend the self in imagination and execution. Disappear inside the game: break through limits: transcend: improve: win."

lougorman'slunch said...

It is pretty remarkable, but maybe tells us something about how boring men's tennis has become. Players have been moving in this direction -- super serves that are impossible even for their fellow cyborgs to return -- for decades. The only possible baseball analogy is the Pawsox game from the early 80s that went to 36 innings (I think). That is harder to fathom in the sense that it required all of that equal pitching and there is no analogy to two guys with monster serves and no return game.

laura k said...

Players have been moving in this direction -- super serves that are impossible even for their fellow cyborgs to return -- for decades.

I don't understand. Doesn't this mean tennis has been moving in the complete opposite direction of this epic match? Please explain.

Michael Holloway said...

I read on, and on at the Wimbledon 2010 live blog... nothing yet can beat the hilarious post you reprinted above Allen - but this is great! Thanks.

Michael said...

a 90 inning game would probably come close...if both teams kept trading runs.

Unbelievable. I can't even begin to think of how exhausted they must have felt, physically and mentally, at the end it.