Wimbledon’s epic struggle

June 28th, 2010

By far the outstanding sporting drama of the week was the marathon struggle on the Court 18 between John Isner, the American seeded at 23, and Nicholas Mahut, a Frenchman, seeded at 48. Neither man was a star, but they kept the crowd entranced over three days, with some outstanding tennis and above all a determination never to give up. It was the longest tennis match ever, lasting 11 hours 5 minutes and totally 183 games. Isner served 112 aces, the fastest at 143 mph. Mahut served 103 aces, the fastest at 128 mph.

In the last set Isner won 70-68. It could have been boring, because 137 games followed the same pattern, with the server winning his own service. But not easily. Each player several times came near to breaking his opponent’s serve. And the stunning aces were interspersed with long rallies, which had the crowd holding its breath, the outcome of many games in doubt until the final point.

In the final set Isner was serving first. He is a tall rangy man, looking mostly relaxed and confident. 6 ft 3 ins and representing one of the world super powers. On the other side of the net, the man from France, who have not ruled the world since Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo in 1815. Mahut is smaller, wiry rather than hefty. Intense with concentration. Frequently, looking worried. As well he might. Because he had to serve second for 69 games, knowing all the time, that if he slipped up he was out.

Several times he covered his anguish with the towell over his head. When the end game he looked stunned.

But the crowd cheered and cheered, bringing him back on to his feet. And, the Queen, paying only her second visit ever to Wimbledon, went down to say a few kind words.

Leave a Reply