Longest Tennis Match, 163 Games So Far, Continues at Wimbledon

John Isner and Nicolas Mahut were in the 100th game of their fifth set when the scoreboard went blank. By the time darkness suspended their Wimbledon match for the second straight night, they had played a record 163 games over 10 hours.

They came back today to play some more.

The match resumed at 59-59 in the fifth set, where it was suspended at 9:10 last night. A doctor had been stationed courtside. The players had already combined for 193 aces in the match.

“Nothing like this will ever happen again, ever,” Isner said in a televised interview after the players left the court last night to a standing ovation. “He’s serving fantastic, I’m serving fantastic.”

The first-round match began two days ago. Isner, 25, an American, won the first set. Mahut, 28, from France, won the next two sets. Isner won the fourth set before play was suspended.

The fifth set consumed more than seven hours yesterday, longer than any previous match in Wimbledon history. It resumed at 3:43 p.m. London time today on Court 18 with the score at 6- 4, 3-6, 6-7 (7-9), 7-6 (7-3), 59-59.

“Someone has to win,” Mahut said. “We’ll have to come back tomorrow to see who will win.”

Also today, Britain’s Andy Murray play in front of Queen Elizabeth II on Centre Court and beat Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. The Queen last visited Wimbledon in 1977. Second- seeded Spaniard Rafael Nadal faces Robin Haase of the Netherlands, while defending champion Serena Williams of the U.S. plays Anna Chakvetadze of Russia on Court 2.

The longest tennis match had been a 6-hour, 33-minute first-round contest at the 2004 French Open between Frenchmen Fabrice Santoro and Arnaud Clement.

As Isner and Mahut continued to hold serve in the fifth set, the International Tennis Federation said, records tumbled.

118-Game Set

Isner and Mahut already have played the most games in a match. Their 118-game fifth set is the longest in Grand Slam history. Isner’s 98 aces and Mahut’s 95 have broken Ivo Karlovic’s previous record of 78 aces in one match, for Croatia in a Davis Cup match against the Czech Republic in 2009.

“This is the greatest advertisement we’ve ever had for this sport beyond the final of a Grand Slam,” three-time Wimbledon champion John McEnroe told the BBC, which switched from six-time champion Roger Federer’s match on Court 1 to live coverage of the Isner-Mahut epic on Court 18.

As the fifth set unfolded, fellow players watched in the locker rooms or stood on the balcony on top of the broadcasting center adjacent to Court 18.

“I love this,” Federer said in a news conference after he defeated Serbia’s Ilija Bozoljac in four sets. “I know they’re maybe not loving this, but I guess this is unheard of in our game.

‘Little Bit Tired’

“It’s unfortunate these guys are going to be a little bit tired tomorrow, and the next day, and the next week and the next month,” Federer added. “This is absolutely amazing.”

The longest Wimbledon match had been a 6:09 men’s doubles quarterfinal played over two days in 2006 with Mark Knowles of the Bahamas and Daniel Nestor of Canada defeating Simon Aspelin of Sweden and Todd Perry of Australia. The longest men’s singles match at Wimbledon had been a 5:28 second-round encounter between Greg Holmes and fellow American Todd Witsken in 1989.

“He is a champ,” Mahut said of Isner. “We are just fighting like we never did before.”

Mahut took a painkiller from the tournament doctor at 31- 31. The Frenchman, ranked 148th on the ATP World Tour, overcame two match points as he served to stay in the match at 32-33. He’d earlier fended off a match point at 9-10.

“It’s amazing,” five-time women’s champion Venus Williams said in a news conference after beating Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova in straight sets. “It’s a marathon. It’s longer than a marathon.”

U.S. Open Tiebreaker

The U.S. Open is the only Grand Slam tournament in which a final set is decided with a tiebreaker.

“Whoever wins today, I think both of them are winners,” third-seeded Novak Djokovic said in a news conference after he beat Taylor Dent of the U.S. in straight sets. “Maybe they should agree on playing a tiebreak if it’s 50-all. That’s maybe one of the solutions.”

The 23rd-seeded Isner took a bathroom break at 58-58 at 8:56 p.m. as the crowd shouted the names of both players. Mahut overcame a fourth match point as he served at 58-59, hitting his 95th ace of the match. After that, he told the umpire he no longer could see the ball.

With the crowd shouting “We want more, we want more,” officials suspended play.

“I definitely think there should be doctors out there,” McEnroe said. “It looks like Isner is about to fall over. I would definitely vote for a tiebreak in the fifth set.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Danielle Rossingh at Wimbledon through the London newsroom at drossingh@bloomberg.net

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