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Wimbledon 2010: John Isner beats Nicolas Mahut in epic

Wimbledon Championships
Venue: All England Club, London Date: 21 June - 4 July
Coverage:
Live on BBC One and Two, HD, Red Button, BBC Sport website (UK only), Radio 5 live, 5 live sports extra; live text commentary online and on mobile phones; watch again on BBC iPlayer Full details of BBC coverage

Nicolas Mahut and John Isner

Isner finally wins marathon match

By David Ornstein
BBC Sport at Wimbledon

American John Isner held his nerve to overcome Nicolas Mahut 70-68 in the deciding set of their unforgettable first-round encounter at Wimbledon.

Isner outlasted Frenchman Mahut to win 6-4 3-6 6-7 (7-9) 7-6 (7-3) 70-68 in the longest match in history, taking 11 hours and five minutes over three days.

Play resumed at 59-59 in the fifth set and both men confidently held serve before Isner struck in game 138.

The 23rd seed plays Thiemo De Bakker of the Netherlands in round two on Friday.

"This crowd was fantastic," Isner told BBC Sport's John Inverdale on court at the end. "What more can you say? The guy's an absolute warrior. It stinks someone had to lose.

"To share this with him was an absolute honour. Maybe we'll meet again somewhere down the road and it won't be 70-68."

John Isner and Nicolas Mahut

Exhausted marathon pair honoured by Wimbledon

A physically and emotionally-drained Mahut commented: "At this moment I'm just really thankful. It was amazing today. John deserved to win. He served unbelievable, he's a champion.

"It was really an honour to play the greatest match ever at the greatest place for tennis. It was very long but I think we both enjoyed it."

Before the interview the pair were each presented with a crystal bowl and crystal champagne flutes by the All England Club to mark their historic match.

The duel will go down as the most extraordinary in tennis history, smashing the previous records for the longest match, the longest set, the most games in a set and a match, the most aces in a match and the most aces by a player.

Isner finished with 112 aces and Mahut 103, easily beating the previous record - held by Croatia's Ivo Karlovic - of 78.

Aside from the Queen's first visit to Wimbledon since 1977, there was only one topic of conversation on people's lips as the All England Club opened its gates for day four of what has already been an unforgettable Championships.

There was no sign of either player among the early arrivals at SW19 but, on his Twitter page, Isner wrote "Feel like a million bucks!!!" while Mahut undertook a gentle lunchtime practice session.

It was really an honour to play the greatest match ever at the greatest place for tennis. It was very long but I think we both enjoyed it

Nicolas Mahut

"Apparently Mahut was on the treadmill warming up before the match and seemed fine," said Britain's Andy Murray after beating Jarkko Nieminen in front of the Queen on Centre Court.

At about 1530 BST and with a unmistakeable buzz of excitement around the grounds, Isner and Mahut were escorted from the men's locker room to Court 18 by a gaggle of security guards.

Greeted with applause and cheers from a capacity crowd, which included former world number ones John McEnroe and Tracy Austin and scores of reporters and photographers, the pair skipped on to the grass and waved to all corners.

After a short knock-up, umpire Mohamed Lahyani announced "59 games all, Isner to serve, final set", at which point he and the spectators enjoyed a brief chuckle.

It looked as though a swift conclusion may have been in sight when Isner opened with a double-fault, but a couple of body-serves and his 100th ace helped ease any nerves.

606: DEBATE

A sprightly Mahut replied with a confident service hold of his own, reeling off a delightful backhand winner down the line and closing out with a booming ace - his 96th of the match.

Isner appeared to be labouring physically but his serve - rarely dipping below the 130 mph mark - consistently averted any hint of danger.

When Mahut lashed his 100th and 101st aces in game 124, the giant from North Carolina bent towards the ground in exasperation, yet serving first with new balls at 62-62 seemed to reinvigorate him.

Rasping winners and aces came and went as the scoreboard entered uncharted territory with every passing game.

Mahut's groundtsrokes were operating more effectively than those of Isner, who was repeatedly struggling to get round his forehand, but the 6ft 9ins right-hander's relentless power and unshakeable concentration took the breath away.

When you are so focussed and every point feels like a match point you just don't even think about eating or needing the bathroom. I travel Economy so seven hours sitting still on court is nothing

Umpire Mohamed Lahyani

Isner whacked his leg in frustration after missing a passing opportunity in game 130 and at one point threw his racquet to the deck as he failed to find a way through Mahut's defences.

However, he seemed to gain the momentum when a sensational forehand pick-up helped him hold to love for a 68-67 lead and three games later Isner made his move.

At 15-15 Mahut netted a straightforward drop shot with Isner stranded behind the baseline and the 25-year-old American then came up with two forehand passes to seal an epic triumph on his fifth match point.

"It has been quite amazing to be involved with such an extraordinary match," said Lahyani. "I can't imagine seeing another one like it in my lifetime.

"I didn't get a chance to feel tired, I was gripped by the amazing match and my concentration stayed good - I owed that to the players, their stamina was breath-taking and their behaviour exceptional.

"I think the longest match I've ever chair umpired before was five and a half hours long - that's a lot less than even the third set of this one!

"When you are so focussed and every point feels like a match point you just don't even think about eating or needing the bathroom.

"On Wednesday my voice did get a little dry, but I have drunk plenty today and it feels good. I travel Economy so seven hours sitting still on court is nothing."

To compound Mahut's misery he was later back on Court 18 with doubles partner Arnaud Clement and the French pair were trailing Britain's Colin Fleming and Ken Skupski 7-6 (7-4) when play was suspended.

John Isner

Isner and Mahut fire their 100th aces



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see also
Wimbledon day four as it happened
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Wimbledon 2010 - day four photos
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Epic halted at 59-59 in fifth set
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Murray hits top form at Wimbledon
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Nadal pushed all the way by Haase
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Ruthless Serena into third round
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Tsonga battles into third round
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Wimbledon day three as it happened
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John McEnroe on Wimbledon epic
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Men's singles draw
26 Aug 11 |  Tennis
Isner and Mahut fire their 100th aces
24 Jun 10 |  Wimbledon
Grand Slam men singles results
21 Jun 10 |  Tennis
Tennis on the BBC
26 Oct 11 |  Tennis


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