In 2004 at Roland Garros, two Frenchmen, Fabrice Santoro and Arnaud Clement, dueled for 6 hours and 33 minutes, in the longest match in tennis history, with Santoro winning the extended 5th set, 16-14.  That was the longest match in history, until yesterday and today, when American, # 23rd seed John Isner and French one hander Nicolas Mahut, played for a jaw dropping 11 hours and 5 minutes on court 18, with the fifth set alone going 428 minutes, in a set that had not seen a break of serve until the 138th game of the extended 5th set, in a match that went on for 3 days.

The match was suspended due to darkness last night with Isner ready to serve in game 119 of the 5th set, somehow, as the giant looked tight at many points throughout the fifth set, but kept getting booming serves in, in what had to be one of history’s most gruelling and fascinating sporting events ever.  That contest has just been concluded after 3 days, and almost a half day’s play, with American John Isner defeating Frenchman Nicolas Mahut, 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (9), 7-6 (3), 70-68, in front of american tennis luminaries John McEnroe and Tracey Austin, and an electric court 18 at SW-19.

In fact, John McEnroe came in to watch the 5th set yesterday at the start of game 24, more than 100 games and a day before the match’s eventual end, which saw both players strike over one hundred aces and nearly 300 unreturnable serves, when it was all said and done.

Stats?  Check these out:

Mahut (FRA) Isner (USA)
  1st Serve % 328 of 489 = 67 % 361 of 491 = 74 %
  Aces 103 112
  Double Faults 21 10
  Unforced Errors 39 52
  Winning % on 1st Serve 284 of 328 = 87 % 292 of 361 = 81 %
  Winning % on 2nd Serve 101 of 161 = 63 % 82 of 130 = 63 %
  Winners 244 246
  Receiving Points Won 117 of 501 = 23 % 104 of 510 = 20 %
  Break Point Conversions 1 of 3 = 33 % 2 of 14 = 14 %
  Net Approaches 111 of 155 = 72 % 97 of 144 = 67 %
  Total Points Won 502 478
   Fastest Serve Speed 128 MPH 143 MPH
   Average 1st Serve Speed 118 MPH 123 MPH
   Average 2nd Serve Speed 101 MPH 112 MPH

The players struck a combined 980 serves and 490 winners, and to their credit, combined for only 91 errors in the epic match whose fifth set alone was longer than the 2nd longest match in recorded history.  Nicolas Mahut served 64 times in the fifth set in must win games, and held 63 of those times, while John Isner, in what was truly perhaps the most amazing display in all of sports history, allowed only 3 break points against and saved two–in the entire match.

People have already begun to complain about the excessiveness of the fifth set, which at Wimbledon, the Australian Open, and the French Open, does not have a tie-breaker.  As it shouldn’t.  You play until there’s a break of serve.  That’s true tennis.  And this match reinforced the games most important shot–the serve–without which, both guys would have been off the court a lot sooner.

Give tremendous credit to Nicolas Mahut, who in the deciding game, continued to presss forward, forcing Isner to win the match with a decisive forehand and a decisive backhand pass.  Mahut, one of the games only true serve and volley players left, approached the net 155 times, and went down in keeping with that style.

And then give even more credit to John Isner, who at several points on Wednesday looked done.  In the 2 day fifth set, Isner’s back and legs were visibly tight, but he shook it off.  He just kept serving bombs at will, as if it was rote.  As the match wore on to unthinkable stages, Mahut looked like the more energetic player of the two–a decided advantage he could not exploit–even laying out on the grass a few times to extend for a shot, while Isner looked like he could barely move.

But it was Isner who lobbied to continue play when darkness came, and Isner, who managed the break of serve, which was the match’s first since the 2nd set, more than 600 minutes of play earlier.

Also credit The All England Club for commemorating the match quickly with a classy ceremony and with gifts for both players and the chair (pictured above). 

 Isner will play Thiemo De Bakker in the 2nd round, and is scheduled to still play doubles with Sam Querrey today, who is currently in a dog fight with Ivan Dodig, one set a piece and on serve in the third.


Crack (