Some sports are marathons others are sprints. Some you must give your all for a short period of time, others you must hold back so that you can see out the length of the match. Tennis is closer to a marathon than a sprint as it is fought over five sets. It usually ends in a few hours and requires athletes to be in top physical condition to compete well. Athletes train for months to be able to offer their best for those few hours. One tennis game was far more than a marathon. While this match was also five sets it took just over 11 hours of play to complete marking an incredible achievement for both players.
It was the first round in Wimbledon when John Isner (23 seed) was due to face Nicolas Mahut. The game was not expected to be an epic and was placed on side court 18 for this reason. In fact, for the first four sets, it was nothing out of the ordinary. The game was evenly poised at 6-3, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6 but the fifth set would change everything.
The set took over eight hours to complete and continued until Isner finally defeated his opponent by 70 games to 68 in the final set. This type of match is unheard of. To show this even the scoreboard had to be altered during the game to allow it to show a number so high (it previously only went up to 47). The men battled on for hours and as the game prolonged both men wanted to lose less and less, knowing that something special was in creation.
Isner was the stronger of the two players in the final game although Mahut showed incredible spirit. Mahut had to serve 63 times to stay in the game, it was the 64th time that he failed to do so. This marks an incredible spirit in both players.
The game didn’t lack excitement or prowess either. There were 215 aces served, 112 for Isner and 103 for Mahut. It is no surprise that this became a record as well. The previous record had been held by Ivo Karlovic for 78 Aces, although he likely didn’t take 11 hours to get there.
These two incredible athletes showed the strength of will that they had. While the match was postponed twice due to fading sunlight and took place over three days. For these men to battle on for hours on each day was more than either could have possibly imagined or trained for. It shows the incredible beauty of competition and why sport has so many followers in the world. It can never be scripted or predicted. On any given day (or three days) anything can happen. In a period of tennis that is held aloft by the names of Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic, the names of Isner and Mahut now stand alongside them.