In a 2-part series we bring you “the Endless Match” ever played at the Wimbledon 2010 rather in tennis history. Here is the Part-1 of the series.
Thinking of Wimbledon, what strikes us as spectators are the lush green grass, players in spotless whites, a royal box with royalties dressed in panache and the traditional sweet strawberry with cream.
But for the players, there’s another thing that stands out, which is not as exciting as the above-mentioned peculiarities, i.e. the final set rule.
Unlike other grand slams, Wimbledon requires players entering the fifth set to earn their victory. Thus a player needs to win two consecutive games to win the final set after 6-6. This can be exhausting at times.
On the 22nd of June 2010, John Isner was all set to enter court 18 to take on his opponent, Nicholas Mahut, a qualifier, from France.
The 6 ft 11 inch American did not know, he was in for a match that would be looked back as “the endless match”, lasting 11 hr 5 minutes. During the three-day marathon competition, Isner fetched some fame and the underdog, Nicholas Mahut became famous overnight.
In the course of the match, there were many records created and the names of both players engraved in the pages of history.
The Setting Of The Endless Match
Nicholas Mahut, qualified for the main draw by winning three qualifying round matches, on the other hand, Isner was seeded 23rd. Mahut and Isner both were also playing Gentlemen’s doubles at the tournament. The match was played on Day 2 of the 13-day slam.
Day 1: WITH GREAT SERVES COME GREAT POINTS
When the players walked onto the court, Isner, was his usual, blasting aces along with some serve and volley on the weak returns. Isner was also returning well to, surprisingly big serves of Mahut.
The players were on par until Mahut’s service was broken in the ninth game when he double faulted. The stats showed that Mahut was aggressive on his serve and did more serve and volleys than Isner.
In the next set Mahut broke Isner’s serve and won the set 6-3. Isner was broken on in the second game, for love. Probably it was here that the Frenchman potentially saw an opportunity.
Both the 3rd and 4th sets were tight, with no break of serves and extended to tie-breaks. In the 3rd set, Mahut won the tie-break 9-7. He displayed utter discipline in the tie break and taking a 3-0 lead in the 7 point tie-break. He served well and continued with his serves and volleys.
In the 4th set, Mahut lost the tie-break 4-7 as the match clock showed 2 h 55m OF PLAY. Now, it was time for the final set, but the sun was setting and the light was low. Finally, after discussing with players, much to the spectators’ disapproval, the umpire announced “play suspended due to darkness”
Day 2: When Players Failed To Convert
To commence the final set the players were all geared up. The match began and Isner served at 124MPH to win the point amidst the crowd’s applaud.
The players got some chances they failed to convert. Isner had 4 match points. The first came when Mahut was serving and the scoreboard read 9-10, the second at 32-33 at Mahut’s serve when Isner had two breakpoints, and finally the last at 58-59.
But Isner was to soon face the most regretted match points that he gave up, only to endure another day of the match.
By the time match ended on 23rd June, it had set a record for the longest match to be played. It ended at 59-59 to be continued the next day.
The players had attracted crowd, that was spectating the match from almost every space possible around the court. When the umpire announced, “Match suspended” the crowd chanted, “We want more, we want more!” the match ended after almost 7hrs of play on the second day.
Calm Before The Storm
Both the players had endured the longest ever match, and yet there was more to it. The players claimed to have taken ice-baths, Isner said, “I was so hungry I could eat 10 Big Macs”.
The media covered the players extensively. Before leaving the court on 23rd, both players acknowledged the level of tennis exhibited by the other.
Isner and Mahut were visibly tired and made sure to stay hydrated to avoid cramps. In a scenario as such, the mental fighting ability is all that makes a difference. The players were still fighting and not giving up.
I leave you here, to process this exciting, enduring, ecstatic, eternally long match. It’s rather surreal to see a 3 day long tennis match and along with this historic record came in reactions from the G.O.A.T’s of tennis.
Also, there were challenges faced not solely by the players, but the scoreboard that halted as it wasn’t designed for such a marathon match. Moreover, is such a rule necessary?
To know about the result of this phenomenal match, stay with us, and wait for Part-2 – The CULMINATION!