Do They Break Out The Vuvuzelas For This?

Katherine Rust at The Atlantic with a round-up. Rust:

While American soccer fans reveled in the glory of Landon Donovan’s game-winning goal yesterday, for the nation’s tennis supporters victory was not so sweet–until today. American John Isner and Frenchman Nicolas Mahut spent the better part of Wednesday, and Tuesday, and Thursday playing in what was to become the longest tennis match in history. Battling for some 11 hours over the course of three days, the contest finally came to an end when Isner slipped a backhand past Mahut, winning the match and leaving commentators exhausted, overwhelmed and awe-struck. Regardless of the result, the day had several winners. Who came out on top?

Kamakshi Tandon at ESPN, before Isner won:

At 41-41, the net broke down. At 47-47, the scoreboard broke down. John Isner and Nicolas Mahut, however, were still standing at 59-59 in the fifth set as the match was suspended for darkness a second day.

All of tennis’ longest match records lay in tatters. And all over the grounds, all over the world, people got up knowing they had witnessed something truly historic in the annals of tennis. The longest match ever. By far.

At the end, both players were able to walk off the court without losing and everyone else was left to consider the statistical enormity of what they had just witnessed.

“What I can tell you? It’s just unbelievable. I can tell you 10 times in a row, unbelievable,” said Arnaud Clement, whose 6-hour, 33-minute match against Fabrice Santoro at the French Open in 2004 had been the previous record for the longest-ever match.

Isner and Mahut have gone longer than that in the fifth set alone, playing for 7 hours, 6 minutes.

“Everybody is watching in all the TVs here,” Clement reported of the locker room. “Players … all the staff.”

Walking off the court shaking his head in incredulity, Isner’s coach Craig Boynton said, “It’s all uncharted territory right now. The match is going to be over three days, they’ve played over seven hours. It’s nuts. What do you do? There’s no playbook.

“Physically, we’ll get him ready [for Thursday]. We’ll make a few adjustments tactically. What do you say — ‘It’s 59-59. Go have fun?’

“I’m going to put my arm around the kid and tell him how proud I am, win or lose here.”

Hal Spivack at Fanhouse:

Here is the record-setting time breakdown of the first-round match for the ages (all London time):

On Tuesday, the match began at 6:13 PM.

On Tuesday, the match was suspended due to darkness at 9:07 PM after Isner won the fourth set and tied the match up at two sets apiece.

On Wednesday, play resumed with the players square at the start of the fifth set at 2:04 PM.

After 118 games on Wednesday with no breaks of serve in the fifth, play had to be suspended due to darkness again at: 9:10 PM, tied 59-59 in fifth-set games.

On Thursday, the match resumed at 3:43 PM at 59-59.

The match finally ended on Thursday at 4:48 PM in the 138th game of the fifth set, with Isner winning 70-68, finally breaking Mahut’s serve.

The fifth set alone – at eight hours, 11 minutes – took more time to complete than any other previous completed match in the history of Open Era tennis.

Fabrice Santoro
and Arnaud Clement had previously held the record for the longest match in Open Era history by playing a six-hour, 33-minute contest over two days at the 2004 French Open. Santoro defeated Clement 6-4, 6-3, 6-7 (5), 3-6, 16-14 at Roland Garros that year.

The match lasted longer than any Major League Baseball game ever played. The White Sox played the Brewers in an eight-hour, six-minute contest that spanned 25 innings in 1984.

James Fallows, before the Isner win:

Last summer my wife and I went to the Legg-Mason tennis tournament in DC, early in the week’s play. By far the best part of seeing any pro tennis tournament in person is on the first couple of days, when you don’t have to sit in the stadium seeing matches from a distance but can wander around the side courts and see players from a few feet away.

At one of the practice courts, I saw what seemed to be an absolute giant warming up with a partner. It was Isner, whom at that point I’d never heard of, and some also very tall Eastern Europe person. I was able to stand directly behind the fencing — that is, 20 feet behind Isner’s opponent as he waited behind the baseline to deal with Isner’s incredible serve. On TV it is really hard to get an idea of the velocities, reflexes, and different-from-the-rest-of-us skills of top-level athletes. I watched Isner wallop serves for about an hour and was amazed that anyone could touch any of them. He is said to be 6’9″ but appeared to be about 11’2″, hitting serves more or less straight down

Peter J. Schwartz at Forbes:

Whether or not John Isner’s name is ultimately¬†engraved on the Wimbledon trophy next weekend, he’s already emerged as this year’s champion. Earlier today, the former NCAA standout won what was, by far, the longest match in tennis history, measured in both games (183) and elapsed time (11 hours, five minutes). He obliterated the records for aces (112) and winners (246) in the process. Afterwards, his opponent, Nicolas Mahut, called it “the greatest match ever.” The three-day marathon was Isner’s Tin Cup moment, an event so dramatic that it is likely to overshadow the rest of the tournament.¬†(It already stole the limelight from the Queen, who visited the All England Club on Thursday for the first time in 33 years).

What’s more, Isner’s win could make him rich. The retirements of Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi created a huge vacuum in American tennis. Try as they might, Andy Roddick and James Blake haven’t been able to fill that void. Last year, those two players pulled in a combined $19 million in endorsements and appearance fees, $6 million less than Agassi’s take five years prior.

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