Longest Match Halted After 10 Hours, Will Move Into Third Day

The first-round Wimbledon match between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut already is the longest in tennis history, and will head into its third day.

Play was halted at 9:10 p.m. today tied at 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (7-9), 7-6 (7-3), 59-59. The match, which also was suspended by darkness yesterday, is 10 hours long -- so far.

“Nothing like this will ever happen again, ever,” Isner, an American, said in a televised interview after the players received a standing ovation from hundreds of fans and players at Court 18. “He’s serving fantastic, I’m serving fantastic.”

The match started yesterday, and was halted at two sets each. It is scheduled to continue tomorrow, starting no earlier than 3:30 p.m. local time.

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

That wasn’t the only record to get broken. The 25-year-old Isner and 28-year-old Frenchman Mahut have played 163 games so far, the most in a match. Their 118-game fifth set also is the longest in Grand Slam history.

Isner has served 98 aces, while Mahut has 95. Each has broken Ivo Karlovic’s previous Wimbledon record of 51 aces in a men’s singles match set during the first round in 2005.

“He is a champ,” Mahut said in a televised interview, after the match was suspended. “We are just fighting like we never did before.”

Their final set, which by itself has now lasted 7:06, took more time than the previous longest match played on the London grass courts.

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 beating 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.

Crowds Pack Court

Crowds gathered around Court 18 as the fifth set reached double digits. By the end of the evening, the small court was packed with fans, photographers, players and media all trying to watch history unfold.

The BBC switched its live coverage to the Isner-Mahut match, even though defending champion Roger Federer was playing on Court 1 at the same time.

“John is barely moving anymore, but he’s still able to produce good serves when he has to,” Federer said in a news conference after beating Serbia’s Ilija Bozoljac in four sets. “It’s so impressive to see. I was watching this. I don’t know if I was crying or laughing. It was too much.”

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.

Even the scoreboard couldn’t cope, going blank as the men played the 100th game of the fifth set.

‘It’s Amazing’

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

“I definitely think there should be doctors out there,” former Wimbledon champion John McEnroe told the BBC as the players got a standing ovation after the changeover at 56-55. “It looks like Isner is about to fall over. I would definitely vote for a tie-break in the fifth set.”

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 went to the umpire, telling him he didn’t want to play anymore because he could no longer see the ball.

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

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