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Marathon men earn huge plaudits

Tom Fordyce | 22:11 UK time, Wednesday, 23 June 2010

From Wimbledon:

It was when the scoreboard packed in at 47 games apiece in the fifth set that you genuinely began to fear for the players' sanity.

When France's Nicolas Mahut and the USA's John Isner strolled out on to Court 18 just before 1400 BST on Wednesday to polish off their first round match, two sets apiece, barely anyone gave them a second look. The first set had lasted 32 minutes, the second 29. "A quick spot of tennis," you can imagine a spectator saying, "and then we'll pop off for lunch."

Just over seven hours later, the score locked at 59 games each, nobody would have been surprised to hear a Red Cross aeroplane drone overhead and start dropping food parcels.

At 10-10 we raised eyebrows. At 20-20 people stopped talking about the England game and started using the "really?" word. At 30-30 people began rushing from Centre Court and looking for shoulders to stand on. Seats? The last one of those 782 spaces went about 1700 BST, when the set had been in progress for a mere three hours.

At 33-32, Isner had two match points. When he failed to take them, he slumped to the ground and called for a banana. At least I think he did. He may have called for his mother.

At 33 games apiece, the record for the highest number of games in a single match went. Farewell, Pancho Gonzales and Charlie Pasarell, with your mere 112 games over five sets and frankly laughable 11-9 in the final set.

40-40 came and went. Court-side, admiration turned to laughter turned to disbelief. Men who had sat down clean shaven scratched their straggly beards. Ball-boys became ball-men.

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Throughout it all, Isner looked moments away from collapse. That he stayed on his feet seemed to defy medical science.

Mahut tried skipping along the baseline to show how fresh he felt. It was probably unnecessary. When you've served to stay in the match more than 50 times, no-one's going to question your stamina.

Six hours in, packed in like a sweaty sardine with hundreds of other rapt disbelievers, I started to worry about the supporting cast.

Umpire Mohamed Lahyani hadn't moved from his chair for the entire duration, let alone taken a courtesy break.

In the BBC commentary box, a chap named Ronald McIntosh could have been forgiven for sobbing into his microphone. This was the first tennis match he had ever commentated on. "Stick him out on Court 18," the Beeb director had thought. "Let him cut his teeth on something minor."

Instead, as the sun disappeared behind the blocks of flats in Southfields, Ron was uttering the immortal words: "To the 104th game we go."

Somewhere in a rented house nearby, a Dutchman named Thiemo De Bakker was likely to have been laughing uncontrollably. Why? De Bakker is due to play the winner of this match in the second round.

In the first round earlier in the day he had beaten Santiago Giraldo 16-14 in the final set, and probably worried that he might feel a little jaded in the next round.

The stats kept piling up. The two men had clocked up more hours than Serena Williams had in winning the entire championship last year.

Isner (98) and Mahut (95) both smashed the record for the most aces in a match. The previous best? Ivo Karlovic's 78 in a Davis Cup tie in 2009. If that was dwarfed, so was everything else.

Mahut got his first break point of the set at 50-50, and promptly lost it. We shouldn't have been surprised; there had only been two breaks of serve in the entire match. Without the two earlier tie-breaks, where would we be?

At 59-59, an even more flabbergasting fact on a day of staggering firsts: the fifth set alone had lasted longer than any other professional match in tennis history.

If it was utterly compelling, it was also almost frightening. Both men looked glassy-eyed, unable to respond to the slightest change of direction.

The longest boxing match ever fought took place in New Orleans in April 1893 and lasted 111 rounds. By the point darkness brought the epic here to an overnight break, at 2110 BST, the players looked almost as shattered as Andy Bowen and Jack Burke had back then.

In the gloaming, the greats lined up to gasp.

"I'm so proud," said John McEnroe. "This is the greatest advert we've ever had for our sport beyond the Roger-Rafa final. Our respect levels in tennis will go up so much after this. I am amazed that these guys are still standing."

Roger Federer was next. "It's absolutely amazing. It's a very special match. This is unheard of in our game. I don't know if I was crying or laughing, it was too much. I can relate to it to some little degree - but this is beyond anything."

"You can't comprehend it," muttered Tim Henman. "It's just ridiculous. One of them's got to win. Haven't they?"

In qualifying for the main draw at Wimbledon, Mahut had come through by beating Britain's Alex Bogdanovic 24-22 in the decider.

Peanuts. On Thursday afternoon he and Isner will go again. 59 games each. Where will it end?


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  • Comment number 1.

    Absolutely incredible stuff. I thought Isner was out on his feet after about 32 all but he showed remarkable courage to stay fighting for every point.

    As classic a match as this has been, I wouldn't be surprised to see Isner hold easy and break straight away to win 61-59.

  • Comment number 2.

    Well incrediable, I was working saw it at 5PM, isner was out on his feet, finished at 7PM couldn't believe it was still going on. It then looked like Mahut's to win but it soon changed too either of them. De Bakker had a long match too is their only favour no chance of a R2 win, fantastic effot by both

  • Comment number 3.

    Absolutely ridiculous situation.What are they going to do - continue playing until one of them collapses and dies? Just play a tie break in the last set for criminys sake!

  • Comment number 4.

    Easy to understand Isner's weariness after such a long game, only his massively powerful serve and forehands were keeping him in the match. At times he resembled an old George Foreman, barely able to move above a crawl but thudding out vicious haymakers at anything that came within reach.

    If Isner staying upright defied medical science, god alone knows what to make of Mahut. He was rushing and diving even up to the closing games, unbelievable!

    The decision to go off was for the best. Particularly, as McEnroe pointed out, it will mean that the winner will get most of a day's rest wheras instead it would've been right back into action tomorrow.

  • Comment number 5.

    the umpire deserves a standing ovation himself for not taking a break during the whole 10 hours. the scoreborad on the other hand decided it was enough and knocked out somewhere around 50 all, poor showing ;)

  • Comment number 6.

    Bazza you can't change the rules in a middle of a match and this is what Grand Slam tennis is all about

  • Comment number 7.

    I literally thought Isner was going to feint/collapse out there! But great effort - all that is keeping Isner in it though is his serve. I hope for all round tennis ability, Mahut wins :)

  • Comment number 8.

    The biggest shame of this remarkable event is that one of these gentlemen will leave the tournament with a first round loser's pay cheque, surely that is criminal, give both of these guys some sort of special prize, nobody would begrudge them that.

  • Comment number 9.

    What I want to know is, when it gets to 100-100, will the scoreboard clock back to zero, or stay on 99? - We Should Be Told.

    Seriously, get these guys out on Centre tomorrow.

    They have earned the right.

  • Comment number 10.

    The score board went a while ago...

  • Comment number 11.

    At 33 games apiece, the record for the highest number of games in a single match went. Farewell, Pancho Gonzales and Charlie Pasarell, with your mere 112 games over five sets and frankly laughable 11-9 in the final set.
    Two year after the Pancho-Pasarell match (22-24, 1–6, 16-14, 6–3, 11-9) Wimbledon introduced tie-breakers for the first four sets. The Mahut-Isner match which continues into a third day with a final set stuck at 59-59 and lasted nearly twice as long as the Pancho-Pasarell match, must surely lead to the introduction of a tie-breaker in the fifth set (except for the final).
    At the moment the score is 4–6, 6–3, 7–6, 6–7, 59–59. We can rewrite the last set in normal set units of 6-6 to get:
    4-6, 6-3, 7-6, 6-7, 6-6, 6-6, 6-6, 6-6, 6-6, 6-6, 6-6, 6-6, 6-6, 5-5.
    Now personally I find this quite ridiculous for a first round match of a tournament for which potentially the winner has another 6 matches to go.

    If it is acceptable for the World Cup final to be decided by penalties then I think it would be acceptable as well beneficial to the health and well-being of the tennis players to introduce a tie-breaker for the fifth set at Wimbledon (except for the final).

  • Comment number 12.

    Top stuff, absolutly incredable from both guys. I love football, but John Mcenroe got it spot on. 90 minutes, and helped by 10 other players? No, this is tennis, this is sport, this is heroic.

    Totally agree this match should be played until there is a winner by merit, not by a tie break. I dont think either of them would want the easy way out. they will be forever remembered for this, win or lose. Theoretically, there is no loser here.

    Holds your heads up guys, you are creating history in the most incredable way possible. And you France footballers? Take note in Mahut, he is a guy who is giving everything in the face of adversity

  • Comment number 13.

    Totally agree this match should be played until there is a winner by merit, not by a tie break.

    For someone who wins in three sets on tie-breakers e.g. 7-6,7-6,7-6, or in four sets e.g. 3-6, 7-6, 7-6, 7-6 would you not consider the winner to have won on merit?

  • Comment number 14.

    The most compelling tennis match i've ever seen, would have loved to have been there. Immense mental toughness from both to keep going when they must have been fatigued beyond anything they'd ever felt before.

    As a big fan of Mahut (since we only ever see him over the grass court season) i'd like to see him come through as it would probably mean more to him, Isner is the one with the big future and Nicolas has grafted for years and not cracked it.

  • Comment number 15.

    Astonishing, is probably not even close to describing this match and performance by both players. Naturally whoever ends up winning is going to be too physically spent to progress further, but they have both managed to write their names into tennis history today.

    I totally agree with John McEnroe, this is a truly incredible athletic feat, and puts football and pretty much any other sport in the shade.

  • Comment number 16.

    Compelling tennis... was glued the Beeb's and all my friends, even none tennis followers watching the footy switched to the game texting each other like mad. A reminiscence of They Shoot Horses, Don't They?
    This game should have come with a warning of not to try this at home.
    It almost felt like watching a car crash.
    A great show of human endeavour.

  • Comment number 17.

    tarantoes, I think you have to avoid making kneejerk reactions to what is probably going to be a 1 in 50 years event. Each tournament probably gets 4 or 5 5th set marathons that go into the teens. Every so often we'll get one that threatens the twenties, but I see no reason to go changing the rules dramatically because 1 match, just 1 match has proved to be so much longer than any other that has come before it.

  • Comment number 18.

    if somebody had told me at the start of the day that I would be watching a Wimbledon match on court 18, rather than the world cup I would have laughed

  • Comment number 19.

    I believe that the Guiness Book of Records lists 49-47 as the largest number of games ever in a set.

    Don't change the rules. This is pure drama. It will never happen again. And really you do not want to have 5th set tiebreaks... it just cheapens the result for the winner.

  • Comment number 20.

    Isner looked moments from collapse, Mahut has got some serious fitness issues, his fitness looks incredible.

    I can't quite believe what I saw earlier and most people will say or think the same, it was so superb watching some bits tired me out but some bits you didn't want to miss.

    If this match keeps going and going, what if it carrys on for another hour or two tomorrow afternoon. What a treat it was but it seems so unreal.

  • Comment number 21.

    The queen should come to Wimbledon on thursday with medals for each of them.

    What they've done today is nothing short of heroic in my view!

    This match gets it's own chapter in the record books! There are tennis matches, and then there's this one!

  • Comment number 22.

    This contest re defines the epic match! Both Isner and Mahut have shown amazing mental and physical strength.

    It's one of those once in a lifetime occurances and should not lead to a rule change. The disappointing thing is one if these men need to go out in the first round but as McEnroe says they have boosted the profile of tennis with their efforts and they will both go down in history

  • Comment number 23.

    tarantoes, I think you have to avoid making kneejerk reactions to what is probably going to be a 1 in 50 years event. Each tournament probably gets 4 or 5 5th set marathons that go into the teens. Every so often we'll get one that threatens the twenties, but I see no reason to go changing the rules dramatically because 1 match, just 1 match has proved to be so much longer than any other that has come before it.

    I am happy to go along with the players views. I will think that you will find that the fifth set is getter longer and longer as players get fitter and fitter. Indeed Mahut had a 24-22 final set in the second round of the Wimbledon qualifiers. It doesn't do the players any good since the loser still gets £11250, while the winner is almost certain to lose in the second round - where he would get £18750. Ten hours of tennis is like four marathons one after another. The Pancho-Pasarell match did lead to the introduction of tie-breakers in the first four sets so there is a precedent for changes after "ultramarathon matches". However I am happy to take the tennis players views. I wouldn't have a fifth set tie-breaker in the final as the final is the last match of the tournament and hence there would be time for the finalists to recover.

  • Comment number 24.

    "I totally agree with John McEnroe, this is a truly incredible athletic feat, and puts football and pretty much any other sport in the shade."

    By that logic Cricket beats Tennis I guess, as they play 5 days in a row for a single match regularly?

  • Comment number 25.

    "I totally agree with John McEnroe, this is a truly incredible athletic feat, and puts football and pretty much any other sport in the shade."

    By that logic Cricket beats Tennis I guess, as they play 5 days in a row for a single match regularly?
    Well I think most of the time they are standing in the field or sitting in the pavillion or tucking into lunch or having their tea ...

  • Comment number 26.

    This is an exception, a blindingly obvious exception, and is no reason to include tie breaks in the final set.

  • Comment number 27.

    This is what one of the former tennis players has to say (John McEnroe):

    "They are unbelievably conditioned mentally and physically but this is going to take six months out of their careers.

    I have got a feeling that they may eventually change the rules now - they should do.

    This is great and wonderful, they have broken every record there is to break but there should be a limit.

    I would do it at six-all in the fifth and decide on the tie-breaker because you have to win that by two."

  • Comment number 28.

    Expect lucrative sponsorship deals after this after their find out the dissappointment of a first round pay-check and expect a energiser/duracell advert to rip this off pretty soon.

  • Comment number 29.

    It's a shame 1 of them has to lose.

  • Comment number 30.

    The perfect song to describe the events on court 18 is 'You and Me' by Lifehouse (2002). Imagine this from the John and Nicolas' point of view, going through their heads over and over again when receieving serve.

    "What day is it
    And in what month
    This clock never seemed so alive
    I can't keep up and I can't back down
    I've been losing so much time

    Cause it's you and me and all of the people
    With nothing to do, nothing to lose
    And it's you and me and all of the people and
    I don't know why I can't keep my eyes off of you

    All of the things that I want to say
    Just aren't coming out right
    I'm tripping on words, you got my head spinning
    I don't know where to go from here

    Cause it's you and me and all of the people
    With nothing to do, nothing to prove
    And it's you and me and all of the people and
    I don't know why I can't keep my eyes off you"

    So beautiful, so sad.

    I sincerely hope no one dies, because without proper care, we could have a casualty on court. Wimbledon could have blood on its hands. I'm surprised Isner can still breathe. Imagine his heart trying to pump 5 litres of blood around that massive body after 7 hours of brutal tennis, mental anguish and all without a proper break, proper nutrition or effective metabolism. I know it's not done in tennis, but they should have been receiving better care.

    Good luck to them tomorrow, whoever it is that wins. I hope they have their piece of history entrenched not only in Wimbledon folklore, but also commemorated by some sort of physical embodiment of their efforts - a picture or plaque - something to remember what will have been a monumental probable 3 days. Who knows, they could be on court for many more hours. Wimbledon, as has been shown, is not just about the winning, its about the fight. First we had Falla - that was a great story, but this just beats most of any tennis witnessed at the top level in a Grand Slam. If the All England Club thought Rudyard Kipling was a great influence on their philosophy, you only have to look at this match, between two men, two brothers to see that his glorious words have a rival in glorious actions.

    It was said (sic),

    Something about them now
    I can't quite figure out
    Everything he does is beautiful
    Everything he does is right

    Jason Wade could have been writing about Mahut and Isner, 8 years previously. This is great stuff. I'm sure there will be many tears when it all ends.

    To quote WH Auden:

    "Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come."

    Whoever it is, they will be mourned.

  • Comment number 31.

    I agree that this match is Epic of Epic, and both players deserve all the plaudits and fame that will accrue, but I also want to congratulate Tom Fordyce on a superb piece of reporting - witty, humane and insightful.

    It was fitting for such a great contest.

  • Comment number 32.

    "The longest boxing match ever fought took place in New Orleans in April 1893 and lasted 111 rounds. By the point darkness brought the epic here to an overnight break, at 2110 BST, the players looked almost as shattered as Andy Bowen and Jack Burke had back then."

    Just wondered how you know how shattered the boxers in 1893 looked!

    I think they should finish their match on Centre in front of the Queen tomorrow, it would be a fitting reward for their amazing feat.

  • Comment number 33.

    If tie breaks are good enough for the first four sets, and fifth set breakers are good enough for the US Open, then they're good enough for all tournaments. If not after 6-6, after 12-12 at least. Basically extra time and then a shoot out. And it's not as if breakers are easy to win either. They can be physically challenging and very long (1980), and they can also demonstrate an air of dominance, for example if someone wins 7-0.

    There is also the issue of time. Not to mention such a match ruins a player. And when I say ruins, I mean RUINS. Do you know what happened to the guy who ran from Athens to Marathon and back again, and back again?

    He died.

    I can see John Isner ending up in hospital if there is another 118 games tomorrow.

  • Comment number 34.

    I hope there are no serious consequences to this match - I also thought it was a real shame they couldn't finish this evening, because I seriously doubt we'll be seeing the conclusion tomorrow. Isner's condition in particular was a cause for concern - Mahut, on the other hand, has surely proved himself as one of the fittest players on the tour. I literally couldn't believe what I was seeing throughout, and it evoked so many reactions hitherto unexperienced during a tennis match - tension, boredom, disbelief, stupefaction but, above all, admiration. In Mahut's unflappable mental toughness and Isner's never-say-die vehement refusal to buckle despite all the odds, we've seen qualities we rarely, if ever, witness in even the very best of athletes in their finest moments. What a shame it'll end both their chances in this tournament, and probably have serious detrimental consequences on both their seasons.

    In response to the fifth set tiebreak question - I would suggest bringing one in at 20-20 in the fifth. That way we still get an epic, but not one that will do for both players.

  • Comment number 35.

    Why would a tiebreak definitely be the solution? The way these two have played it could well have been 300-299 by now! The mental strain of being 1 point from defeat or victory for 295-odd points would surely be much worse than this.

  • Comment number 36.

    Andy Murray lost to Andy Roddick last year 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(7), 7-6(5)

    How is that any more fair than having a fifth set tie break? If tie breaks can settle the closest of matches in the 4th sets, then they can in the 5th too.

  • Comment number 37.

    First off, I would like to point out that I am in no way, shape or form, a tennis fan, and did not watch any of this match. In fact, it was only when I came online to check the football scores that I found out about it.

    That being said, this was clearly an amazing performance by both players, and I have to agree with all of those people calling for the match to be completed on Centre Court.

    I think it is the least that these two guys deserve, to go out and finish this game on what even I, as a total non-tennis fan, am aware of as one of the ultimate aims for all tennis players.

    Football players want to play at Wembley, tennis players want Wimbledon and Centre Court, and as just the final set of their game has lasted longer than any other tennis match in history, they should be afforded that honour.

    However, I would also say to those people who are upset that this match has ended any chance either player had in the tournament, wake up! Neither of these players were ever likely to progress too far anyway. The only reason this game has lasted as long as it has is because they are both very evenly matched, and one of these guys struggled to put away a British guy in qualifying!

    Let's face it, the fact he HAD to qualify means he had limited chance of success in the actual tournament. The fact his final set against a Brit was 24-22 or whatever shows that he STRUGGLED to qualify.

    So we are basically talking about two players who would usually be considered average at best, who have gone out today and done something extraordinary. Not just for them, but something that would be extraordinary by anybody.

    I would hereby like to make a proposal to the BBC:

    How about on this years typically lame Sports Personality of the Year show, you add an award for the years greatest sporting achievement, and award it to these two players, who, regardless of what happens when the game resumes, have gone out there and competed in what I am sure will become the most discussed tennis match in history, even amongst people like me who hate tennis!

  • Comment number 38.

    One of the radio5 live sports reporters reckons the winner will be whoever is able to hobble out of their hotel room and make it to the start of the match tomorrow - winning by default. Or they might be both wheeled out and rushed to the court tomorrow by their coaches. It could end up as a game of wheelchair tennis. Let me remind myself of the current score:

    4-6, 6-3, 7-6, 6-7, 6-6, 6-6, 6-6, 6-6, 6-6, 6-6, 6-6, 6-6, 6-6, 5-5.

  • Comment number 39.

    why would anybody want tie-breakers in the 5th? we wouldnt get these EPIC once in a lifetime matches!

    i bet if you asked the players theyd rather keep the 5th without the tie

  • Comment number 40.

    Re: comments about how Tennis requires a superior level of fitness compared to football in the wake of Mcenroe's comments, apart from this obvious freak match, there is a lot of time in tennis spent doing, well not much. Obviously the stop-start nature (although you could argue its prominent in both sports) and serving (especially the way isner and mahut serve) are very tiring, but in such a game where there are nearly 200 aces, thats a lot of points where the other player has just watched the ball go past on the spot.

    I'd be very interested to see the mile-age of a tennis player in a typical (insert arbitrary value here) match, compared to that of a midfielder/striker in a football game, as in football games they have published this stat as about 10-11 miles for some players over 90 minutes. You can't say, this tennis match lasted 3 hours - this football match lasted 2 hours (90+30) ergo, tennis requires more fitness. Does anyone know if they publish similar statistics?

    Maybe I'm way off the mark here, Im definitely not saying tennis doesnt require a high level of fitness as the grueling calendar and the amount of work they do on their fitness (some players' speed across the court is amazing) shows how tough it is, i'm merely challenging the relative fitness level 'required' for each sport. Obviously, the fact that tennis matches are a lot more concentrated in time periods has to be taken into account as well. But as a _very_ unfit person, who's skill at both sports leaves a lot to be desired at best, my anecdotal experience is that I can make it through a 2-3 hour tennis match without too much problem while after about 45 minutes of football im dead on my feet.

  • Comment number 41.

    The Red Cross needed to drop in a few members of the Swedish Army's 114th Massage (Female) Battalion as well - one for each player, and one for the chair referee as well... for the Referee's Office, what will they do if the two singles matches scheduled for Court 18 Thursday went so long, darkness fell before both were completed?

    And if anyone at the Met Office could keep the temperature from exceeding 20 on Thursday, Mahut and Isner would really appreciate it - if it gets to 26, as forecast, a full emergency team had better be standing by...

    ...actually, better have two of them!

  • Comment number 42.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 43.

    On another note, I'd hate to see the 5th set tie break introduced across the board, especially not for the final as 2 of the best finals in recent history wouldn't have quite been the same! What an amazing feat though by both players! To be able to serve for the match that many times as well as the fitness he looked to have spare was amazing from Mahut!

  • Comment number 44.

    Do you know what happened to the guy who ran from Athens to Marathon and back again, and back again?

    He died.


    Actually, he didn't. He survived for years afterwards. Please carry out proper research before you stake your reputation on myths. And when I say proper research I don't mean looking it up on wikipedia.

  • Comment number 45.

    RE: wingcommanderthrush

    I doubt if there is any truth to the myth in the frist place, but if there is, the vast majority of the stories (not just Wiki) maintain that Phidippides (or any of the other spellings you'd care to choose) did die VERY soon after delivering news of victory.

    As for the tennis, maybe have tiebreakers once the score gets to 100 games all, the guys will need some kind of rest afterall ;)

  • Comment number 46.

    At some point the players should be given the option to play a tiebreak (or even toss a coin) each time the score is tied on serve. To go ahead, both players would need to agree. I suspect that a lot of players would favor that option over a marathon deadlock that depletes both players of the energy needed to make any further progress in the tournament.

  • Comment number 47.

    I watched two world cup matches with an hour break between them & these guys were still going. As for fitness, some of the footballers looked dead on their feet after 90min. Tennis is king & these guys are top!!

  • Comment number 48.

    As for the tennis, maybe have tiebreakers once the score gets to 100 games all, the guys will need some kind of rest afterall ;)
    It is not impossible that they reach 10,000 games all. In which case the whole Wimbledon championship would be waiting for this round 1 match to finish in order to progress the tournament. However at 10,000 games all they would still be playing in 6 months time. The court would have been worn away, the grass would have gone, the soil would have eroded down to the base rock. At which point it might be decided to introduce a tie-break into the fifth set.

  • Comment number 49.

    manc - quelle damage?

    More positive press than the All England Club usually gets for the first week of Wimbledon, increased television ratings (especially in the US, since one of the players is American), sponsors of the tournament are very happy, networks don't cut rights fees in the next contract...

    ...shortbread biscuits and Grand Marnier all around at the All England Club HQ when the accountants are done counting the takings for this week...and even the weather is collaborating with Wimbledon (oh frabjous day in North Compound - er, SW19!)...

    ...George Osborne would love to have such financial damage done to his budget, I daresay...and so would I to mine.

  • Comment number 50.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 51.

    awesome stuff...a bit sad we cant see it live in India due to the world cup!

  • Comment number 52.

    I guess people will start saying that the rules must be changed.

    I'm minded to say they must, but maybe not a tiebreak at 6-6.

    How about letting the players try and slug it out for another two full sets worth and then impose a tiebreak at 18-18?

    That would pretty much limit a match to 6 hours ish, which is consistent with still taking your chances in the next round...........

  • Comment number 53.

    What wonderful tennis, just couldn't believe it when I turned back over from watching football to see them both still on court! In the end even my two kids sat watching it with us......and they think Tennis is boring!!!
    They have re-written the record books and the hole of the worlds Tennis in just one match! They should have some token gift from the bosses at Wimbledon, even if it is just a large certificate from the Guinness World Records people documenting all the records they have broken!.
    Stop all this moaning on about the fifth set having a tie break and watch two wonderful tennis players make History at our wonderful Wimbledon!

  • Comment number 54.

    10 hours of play makes a mockery of womens game which could be all over in 1 hr yet demand same prize money. Not just because of long matches like this but mens best out of 5 sets has created demand on players and better value for money Wimbledon and other grand slam tournaments must increase prize money for men if they are to stick to the same format. Either make women play best of 5 sets or both men and women play best of 3. I would not object if all matches men and women are best of 3 sets in early rounds and then best of 5 sets in the finals.

  • Comment number 55.

    I think this can put to bed any issues about the French being surrenderers..

  • Comment number 56.

    Let them both go through to the next round and dump somebody out of the main draw who is clearly underperforming .. Federer anyone ?

  • Comment number 57.

    Here we have tennis receiving the plaudits (e.g. John McEnroe saying what a great advertisement for tennis it is) for one of the greatest moments, I mean 3 of the greatest days, in sporting history, and then we have some people saying actually they want to stop these moments in their tracks. They don't want to see them.

    In footall, for me, the magic of the FA Cup died the day they introduced penalties after 1 replay. I yearn for a return to the days of 3 and 4 replays playing to a natural conclusion. We should be doing everything possible to hang on to the litle enough magic we have in our lives.

  • Comment number 58.

    the match was amazing, the stamina in the heat almost unbelievable, yet we watched it so it must be. do wish they could have had some sort of medical check up at about 30 all, wonder how they're feeling this am?

    amazed they were not only able to walk from the court but also left to carry their own bags. and the umpire deserves praise too, he sat through several linesman changes and other than having to fix the net cord didn't move the whole afternoon - how hard is that to do? and his concentration phenominal.
    it's going to take whoever loses this match a long time to recover - mentally and physically.

    dumb question I guess - but whilst the players all appear to have healthy tans - how come they don't burn - like the audience did yesterday? suncream would trap moisture in and get wiped away by towels etc.... just wondered

  • Comment number 59.

    "I totally agree with John McEnroe, this is a truly incredible athletic feat, and puts football and pretty much any other sport in the shade."
    Rubbish, the football equivalent of this would be two teams playing with 10 men behind the ball for 10 consecutive 0-0 draws.

    All credit to both men for managing to keep going but all through the section I watched yesterday (between the two football matches) neither men looked remotely interested in taking the risks required against the serve to break each other. Which is odd for me because they aren't expected to break surely they should be more inclined to go for risky shots.

    Unfortunately this is indicitive of where mens tennis is heading with players more interested in being able to put shots into play than hit winners. Take Nadal and Federer out of the equation and there are really very few shotmakers left.

  • Comment number 60.

    The obvious solution is that, every change of ends from, say, 10-10 onwards, the players themselves choose whether to play on or play a tie-break. Written votes should be given to the umpire, who should only call a tie-break if *both* players request it. Umpire shouldn't disclose if only one player requests a tie-break.

  • Comment number 61.

    I watched yesterday's 'episode' in awe of both men.
    This truly is 'once-in-a-lifetime' stuff.

    However, I do question who really benefits from this, truthfully, ridiculous scoreline ?
    While both Isner and Mahut will have written themselves into the record books, the winner has virtually no chance of progressing in the next round, even with the most generous of scheduling.

    So, if not Isner or Mahut - in the short-term at least; The loser goes home with a 1st round loser's cheque, the winner with a 2nd round loser's cheque - then who ?
    Well, who gains most are the All-England Club and the spectators, the former can bask in reflected glory, the latter can say 'I was there. I saw the tennis equivalent of the Victorian freak-show !!'

    Which makes me think - shouldn't the event be run for the benefit of the competitors ? While 59-59 ( and counting ) as more than unusual, there have been many occasions where players have been adversely affected by winning matches with large 5th set scores.
    And by not having an absolutely definitive end to a match ( it is like playing a football match until one team scores 5 goals ), the risk that this might happen one day was always there.

    I kinda like the idea of a 'Super 5th Set', maybe play until 10-10 and then play a tie-break ? And not in the final, where current rules would apply, as there is no progression to a next round ?

    Anyhoo, much kudos to both Isner and Mahut, they've created sporting history. I'll probably miss today's play, sadly, but I wish them both good luck.

  • Comment number 62.

    The obvious solution is that, every change of ends from, say, 10-10 onwards, the players themselves choose whether to play on or play a tie-break

    Agreed, let the players decide.

    Although in this case I woldn't see them agreeing, a Tie Break suits Isner so much more than Mahut because of his serve after all.

  • Comment number 63.

    So, if not Isner or Mahut - in the short-term at least; The loser goes home with a 1st round loser's cheque, the winner with a 2nd round loser's cheque - then who ?
    Well, who gains most are the All-England Club and the spectators, the former can bask in reflected glory, the latter can say 'I was there. I saw the tennis equivalent of the Victorian freak-show !!'
    Errr both competitors get to bask in the glory and say they were not only there but a part of it so surely by your silly definition of benefit they would benefit more?

  • Comment number 64.

    The most incredible match I like many others have ever seen. Neither man wanted to give in yesterday and were toe to toe all the way with only bad light stopping the contest. I was unaware of the situation until I turned the match on with the score at 23/24 and then couldn't stop watching.

    There are many players who could take a leaf out of either of these players book it terms of determination and committment. Sorry to say it but Andy Murray comes to mind.

    I wonder what today will bring as Mahut and Isner must both be physically and mentally exhausted although Mahut looked the fresher of the two. My fear is the lasting damage such a match s this could have on the loser. However, it may be that we never see this kind of match again as I'm sure the tennis authorities will look on this as a potential killer and change the rules to a tie break in the fifth but maybe not at 6 all.

    Good luck to both and may the best man win. (By a whisker)

  • Comment number 65.

    Re transferring this match to centre court for the queen. Give the players the choice for them not the queen-if she wants to watch it let her go to court 18.They shouldnt have to move if they dont want

  • Comment number 66.

    I'm with Knowledge is good, You can't change the rules during a match Bazza001. It is things like this game that go down in the history of a sport or event making them all the more special. They should put a plaque on court 18 to immortalise these guys.

  • Comment number 67.

    The big question - who's going to win? I'm saying Mahut, but then I was saying that for literally 70-odd games yesterday.

    The next question - should the Queen bring a brace of medals with her when she pops by later?

  • Comment number 68.

    I don't get this. The longest match IN HISTORY and people think it means the whole rules need to be changed? Can't you see a freak occurrence when you see one?

    Bravo Mahut & Isner. But as someone who's done a lot of exercise in one go before, they are going to be screwed today, their muscles will tighten and hurt and the speed of their serve especially will drop. What that means is the game's probably going to be over within half a dozen games today.

    However, McEnroe is talking nonsense when he talks about 6 months damage. Couple of weeks, and then their bodies will actually be stronger than before. Keep in mind, a fat comedian (Eddie Izzard) managed to run 43 marathons in 51 days. The body is very, very resilient.

  • Comment number 69.

    I'm saying Isner in under 20 mins. Medals is a bit strong but how about a special commemoration at the end of tournament ball. Perhaps, like the men's and women's champions, they could share a dance?

  • Comment number 70.

    Tom asked: "Without the two earlier tie-breaks, where would we be?"

    Surely the answer to that is obvious? We'd be at 71-71 in the third set.

  • Comment number 71.

    How about a one-off game of paper, scissors, rock to decide it..??

  • Comment number 72.

    This is, quite simply, unbelievable. I'm hardly surprised that Isner was struggling to stay on his feet 65 games in - most of us would have collapsed from exhaustion by then!

    I think that this is really testament to the two men, as well as everybody else involved - to be able to concentrate for that long on something and keep going, even if you're on the verge of collapse, shows just how much mettle they have and the raw power of the human mind and body.

    It's just such a shame that this is only a 1st Round match, as there's still a distinct possibility that the winner of this epic match could go out with a wimper in another early round. They deserve more, I think, and I really hope that they do get something more out of this.

    All of those people calling for a rule-change, stop it - this is a very exceptional case, and I wouldn't imagine that this is going to happen again for a long time. I implore you to stop complaining and just appreciate this historical event.

    Aside from this, I'd just like to congratulate Tom on a very well-written blog - it's definitely put me in a positive mood for the rest of the day.

    Bring on Mahut vs. Isner, Part 3!

  • Comment number 73.

    I was at the game and even just watching it was pretty damn exhausting. No seats left from about 5pm so you had several hundred people squashed up 3/4 deep against a railing and stretching their necks for four hours.
    Worth it though, the guys were pretty tired but they kept coming up with the big shots, answering the pressure moments with giant aces, and the quality never really seemed to drop.
    Amazing stuff.

  • Comment number 74.

    Whilst this has been a fantastic tennis match and both players have shown superb endurance lets not get carried away with the exhaustion and shortening of careers hyperbole. These guys are professional sportsman and a high level of fitness is a top priority. Turn on the telly on the 3rd of July and watch the likes of Contador, Wiggins, Armstrong et al riding a bike for 3 weeks over the french mountains if you want to truly feel sorry for a sportsman. Now that is what true fitness looks like.

    Anyway, don't introduce a fith set tie beak, this is what sport is all about!

  • Comment number 75.

    This set seems to have swamped everything else.
    What happened in the first four sets.
    This information doesn't seem to be anywhere on the BBC web.

  • Comment number 76.

    Introduce a tie-break for the 5th set? Never!! This is really exciting and gripping. It is the individuality that life is made of and may it continue. This is obviously very rare - enjoy it!

  • Comment number 77.

    75. At 09:31am on 24 Jun 2010, trevor4491 wrote:
    This set seems to have swamped everything else.
    What happened in the first four sets.
    This information doesn't seem to be anywhere on the BBC web.


    That's because it isn't - I've tried looking too. However, here's the Wimbledon Champs website link - should show you the score up until now:


  • Comment number 78.

    No one who has played tennis to a high standard in this country would advocate shortening it to a tiebreak, this match has taken two of the things that make tennis special, the physicality and the mental toughness and have taken it to the extreme, it is a genuine advert for tennis.

    Both of these players know they have little chance of making the second week, but they choose to keep on fighting when they could have thrown in the towel. Its their choice to be on that court, these guys could have tanked 4 points at 20-20 and no one would have noticed. i personally can only admire the strength they must have to keep fighting everypoint this should be advertised, tennis is not a sport where you can sub off when it gets tough, and the very best players, produce the very best tennis when most people give up.

  • Comment number 79.

    The uncomfortable truth for the other players is that whoever wins this match will have practiced his serve no end and will be unbeatable on it. :-)

  • Comment number 80.

    The reason why the tie-break was introduced shortly after the Gonzales/Pasarell game had little to do with concern for the health of the players, but to appease the TV channels, especially in America, who didn't want their schedules interrupted which would upset the sponsors of those programmes. Matches at the US Open all have tie-breaks in the 5th Set for the same reason.

    If you look at the small number of games each Wimbledon where the score goes beyond 10-10 in the 5th Set to suddenly start saying we must have 5th Set tie-breaks based on one match in the 100-odd years of the toutnament seems a little rediculous to me.

  • Comment number 81.

    People have said that they were concerned about the safety of the players yesterday. And naturally so; the players were obviously in great distress after such a long and difficult day.

    However, no matter how concerned some people were, other people seemed to think that the players and officials were perhaps being unreasonable in calling the day's play to an end. There were boos from the stands. I couldn't believe it. How selfish and disrespectful can people be?

    It was hateful and it was disgusting.

    A good advert and a good day for tennis, but yet another reminder of how some humans' nature can set aside others' needs and wellbeing for their own pleasure.

  • Comment number 82.

    This ridiculous. I pity the poor players. The rules should be changed from now on. The 5th set could only go to 15-15; after a tie-break.

  • Comment number 83.

    We have to remember that all players want to serve first in a 5th set as the other player is on catch up the whole time. Its quite enough for the 2nd server to break a serve and then have to hold his to win the match, but it would be very frustrating, first having to serve second in the knowledge that to fail is to lose instantly, then having to play a tie-breaker at 10 all or something, (the first server then gets 1st serve again, I think) when he's done his level best just to stay in the match and it comes down to a couple of points after a few more serves.

    We will always get the occasional 15-13 or 24-22 5th set match, but this is just a once in a lifetime achievement for these two players. They have made history in what will be a record I am sure will never be broken. For those who watched it, they will always remember it and for the players, it will be a well worn story at the dinner table for decades to come.

    If we had a 5th set tie-break at Wimbledon, where most of these marathons happen, then this will never have happened and we would not be here commending the players about it.

    Lets just savour the moment, its not something that you are going to see very often and it is the tournament, the players and spectators that win in the end.

    If it aint broken, dont mend it.

    {PS, if a player feels like he is going to seriously injure himself, then it is his decision to carry on or retire. In matters like this, it is the survival of the fittest, mentally and physically.)

  • Comment number 84.

    So many knee jerk reactions of 5th set tie break just to a once in a life time feat. come on get real. No tie breaker in the final set it's what sets Grand Slams apart from the rest. Oh and Mac is right as footballers there are 11 of them they don't have to do much for big periods and they walk about with the ball taking a breather. Tennis short burst of energy in a continous rythum, and long rallies longer than what a footballer is involved in a piece of play. But his comment of the fittest guys around is a huge disrespect to cross country skiers whom Rob Walker said not many people beat these guys in a fitness test.

  • Comment number 85.

    Have to agree with Tilly (81), I was astonished to hear people booing and some chanting "We want more". The days of the Wimbledon crowd being seen as the most knowledgeable in tennis are long gone on the evidence of this and the jingoistic approach towards Tim Henman and Andy Murray. Epic match and fantastic effort by Isner and Mahut and I hope neither suffer physically in the long term as a result of this contest.

  • Comment number 86.

    I watched that match, players showed incredible commitment and desire to win, Best ever match played on Court 18, I don't want this match to ever end, They should move this match to centre court, but I think they are afraid that this might upset thir whole day schedule

  • Comment number 87.

    Far from being a great advert for tennis, as McEnroe stated, it makes tennis look like a joke. The BBC football coverage reflected this, mocking the match throughout the football highlight show.

  • Comment number 88.

    The rules DEFINITELY shouldn't be changed to a 5th set tiebreak. This match is a one-off freak occurrence, and would be quite silly to have a knee-jerk reaction and introduce a tiebreak because of it.

  • Comment number 89.


    I wondered how long it would take before someone started bleating about equal prize money.

    The money a sportsman or woman can demand depends on how many people want to watch them and what they are willing to pay to do so, not how long they will play for.

    If two famous boxers fight, and it lasts 1 round, they still get paid more than two less-well-known boxers fighting for 10 rounds. Why? Because the ringside seats have cost more, and the pay-per-view purchases have rolled in. It's about who you are and how many people want to watch in you the first place, not how long it lasts.

    Now, the price of a ticket to the men's final is exactly the same as the price of a ticket to the women's final. If Wimbledon genuinely believe that the women's final is worth less prize money than the men's final because it's usually shorter, then they should also sell the tickets for less, shouldn't they? But they don't. The tickets cost the same, however long the match is, because it's how big the event is that matters, not how long it lasts.

    Imagine the cast of a sold-out play that lasts 2 hours, where seats are sold for £40 each, finding out that they were being paid less than the cast at the theatre next door where the sold-out play lasted 3 hours and also cost £40. They would be livid, because their work has brought in just as much in revenue as the actors next door, therefore they deserve the same recognition, irrespective of how long the pay lasts. If the theatre manager believed that working on a 2 hour play was worth less, then he should also believe that watching a 2 hous play should cost less. But it doesn't. The tickets cost the same, and by denying the actors their fair share of the money their work has brought in, they are merely skimming as much extra profit off the top for themselves as they can manage for any reason they can come up with.

    The womens game brings sponsorship, it brings glamour, it sells tickets and TV rights, it brings money to the tournament in every respect. To suggest that they don't deserve equal recognition for this in terms of equal prize money simply because the matches are usually shorter is to utterly disregard the fundamentals of economics.

    In short, for as long as people are willing to spend the same £££ on a ticket to the women's final as the men's, the players deserve the same remuneration for putting those bums on seats and selling those tickets with their hard work and talent.

  • Comment number 90.

    And footballers complain about playing two games in one week :D

  • Comment number 91.

    Am I the only one who doesn’t want this is move to Centre Court? Personally, part of the magic of this match is that it is on one of the outside courts and not a show court. It was court 18 where the contest began and where it continued on day 2. I think it would be a shame for it to leave 18 now for Centre Court, for the benefit of those who are already lucky enough to have Centre court tickets. Let it end where the whole thing started. That would be the fitting end.

  • Comment number 92.


    There is no mention of anyone running from Marathon to Athens in Herodotus who is the primary source for history of that period. Full stop. The Wiki article on Pheidippides is actually pretty good stating that "The story is improbable". Pheidippides was a runner - he ran to Sparta to seek troops and he ran that journey in 3 days. Nowhere is any mention of him running to Athens or dropping dead!

  • Comment number 93.

    Really good blog

    I think they should be allowed to finish on Centre Court, after all if they get to 100-100, we will need to finish later than 9pm !!!!! No seriously, they should be allowed that priviledge, it would not surprise me if it was over in 2 games !!!! Hoa many times has a cricketer carried his bat into a second day, made a big score and then fallen quickly.

    Also, the point re a special SPOTY award for both is a great one

  • Comment number 94.

    In theory a tennis match at Wimbledon can last to infinity. (Or to one of the players die)

  • Comment number 95.

    I have to agree with all those who've said that this match shouldn't bring about rule changes regarding 5th set tie-breaks. This is what statisticians/options traders refer to as a 6 sigma event or black swan, a completely freak occurrence.

    To those saying that there should be a 5th set tie break at 10-10 or 15-15 etc, how many matches at GS tournaments go beyond that point? Proportionally very few, even then, nobody proposed such measures after the Henman Haarhuis match went to 14-12 or the Roddick El Aynaoui match went to 21-19 etc. This match far outstripped anything that went before by such a huge margin that it defies belief. I am 27 years old and am as certain as can be in such things that this will not happen again in my lifetime.

  • Comment number 96.

    Absolutely compelling viewing - what a shame there will be loser, although both will be part of history that will surely never be rewritten (now there's a dangerous thing to say!!)
    Isner deserves full credit for keeping going - he looked as if he was going to collapse several times - truly astonishing stickability.
    Mahut? - well anyone who can serve 55 times to stay in a match and manage it is OK by me.
    I really hope that it doesn't end in a damp squib (61-59 either way), however, both men will probably want it done sooner rather than later and then they can concentrate on the 2nd round - when a few others are in sight of the round of 16 - bizarre!!!

  • Comment number 97.

    If Carlsberg did tennis matches....!

  • Comment number 98.

    Great blog, Tom! I didn't see a single point, unfortunately, but called a friend when I saw on Twitter that it was 19-18. Being Dutch, and having just seen Thiemo de Bakker crawl through, she didn't believe me and thought I was pulling her leg.
    I'd agree with the Centre Court idea. Maybe even meeting the Queen. I'd recommend they do that first, as the match might not end during her reign...

  • Comment number 99.

    Personally I don't see what the big deal is, Ironman triathletes excercise for a lot longer than this and they don't sit down on a chair every five minutes and have a little picnic. Its just a few hours of tennis and you even get a rest between points. It also shows they are both rubbish at returning serve.

  • Comment number 100.

    #94 I think you'll find innumerable is more appropriate that infinite, especially considering the scoreboard couldn't handle it.


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