June 24, 2010 in Sports

Wimbledon match goes into 3rd day

Diane Pucin Los Angeles Times

WIMBLEDON, England – It became a tennis match unwilling to end.

At 9:09 p.m. Wednesday, at the most magical Grand Slam, the slugfest still was not over but had shattered history.

Seven hours and 6 minutes and 118 games in the fifth set of a match that began a day earlier, John Isner, a lanky Georgian who loves college football, and France’s Nicolas Mahut, with the savoir faire to wear chunky jewelry around his neck, would not give in.

They broke the record for longest match – a match that is already in the record book with the most games (163) and most aces.

The longest match (10 hours and counting) and the longest set in tennis history closed down for the night. But only for the night.

The scoreboard told the story of Isner vs. Mahut: 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (3), 59-59, a story looking for an end as it goes into a third day.

By the time you read this, the Isner-Mahut match may at last have a winner. Then again, they may still be slogging it out.

Two World Cup soccer matches, one involving the United States and one England, had started and ended and Isner and Mahut played on.

Andy Roddick and Venus Williams began and ended their second-round matches Wednesday and Isner and Mahut played on.

Then, as the last light of the sun fell away, play was suspended, Mahut telling the referee it was time. Isner was shaking his head, wanting to play on, but the decision was made.

And with that, there were no more “we want more” chants from the packed crowd at Court 18, no more watching two players dripping in sweat, hitting balls no one thought they could reach, fatigue playing tricks on every move they made – a whiff here, an ace there, a stumble here, then diving flat out face first into the grass is a desperate bid to reach a shot.

“Nothing like this will ever happen again ever,” Isner said, speaking to a BBC on-court announcer. “I don’t know what to say. He’s serving fantastic, I’m serving fantastic. We both couldn’t agree to play so they canceled.”

Mahut agreed but was ready to call it a day.

“Everybody wants to see the end,” he said, “but come back tomorrow. We played for too long.”

This match began Tuesday but by the time Isner won the fourth set tiebreaker, darkness had taken over and play was suspended. It had been hardly notable – a first-round match that would finish off in 20 or 30 minutes on Wednesday. Isner, after all, is seeded 23rd here and Mahut, ranked 148th in the world, had to win three qualifying matches just to get into the main draw. Instead, they played into greatness.

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