Last night when I went to bed (begrudgingly), I had just finished spending more than an hour cheering on a semi-beleaguered Federer in the 2nd round of Wimbledon. He still seemed to be half-asleep and, although playing some solid shots, was making quite a lot of weird errors he shouldn’t have been making and the score was at one set each. At that time, though, I was glad there didn’t seem to be any other match to follow (which would have made my bedtime even more unwanted).
This morning, I woke up to find out that, while Federer eventually did win his match in four sets, the focus of everyone (including Federer himself, as well as Novak Djokovic, Venus Williams, Andy Roddick, John McEnroe and a host of other tennis greats) was on another marathon match on another court featuring John Isner, the fast-serving American 23rd seed and Nicolas Mahut, er, some random French player who’s apparently good on grass.
At the time they finished last night (already their second day of play, their first day being a four-set, almost three hour match that would have been longer than most other entire matches), their fifth set had gone to an insane, record-breaking 59-59 score and their total playtime of over 10 hours is not only by far the longest Wimbledon (or Grand Slam) match in history, but pretty much the longest tennis match ever.
To put it in perspective (as many tennis websites have done), their final set alone had a playtime of over seven hours, which is almost 45 minutes more than the previous record for an entire match (at the 2004 French Open) and, befittingly, had more games than the previous record for, again, an entire match (a record set in 1969). In terms of aces too, Isner’s 98 far eclipsed the previous record of 78 served by Ivo Karlovic in 2009 (Mahut wasn’t too bad either: his ace count of 95, too, also broke Karlovic’s record and puts him into all-time second place).
And the most astounding thing? They’re not done yet. At 59-59, they have yet to finish the match and will continue today for the third day running, ensuring that even if they play just for another five minutes longer, that will be five more record-smashing minutes by its sheer nature.
It’s a pity that this match happened (or rather, is still happening) at first round, because it means that one of the two would be curtailed right at the start of the tournament, which is sad because, like Federer (and numerous others) have commented, for them to both fight this long, this hard and this far (and I heard the level of tennis they played was consistently good even till the very end), they’re both winners and both deserve to move on. I mean, how the heck were they even standing at the end of that set?
It really must be excruciating for Isner, who held a few match points earlier (wayyy earlier) in the match, at 10-9 (which is already considered quite long for most players) and at 33-32 (at which point this was just starting to look ridiculous).
Still, both players have to be applauded and I can’t help but think that, no matter who wins the match, that player probably will be too fatigued to put up much of a fight against the second round opponent. In fact, I think that the match will end anti-climatically quickly today since they’ll both be so tired and just want to finish it off. In any case, this is one for the record books eh?