June 24 (Bloomberg) -- John Isner of the U.S. beat Nicolas Mahut of France at Wimbledon, completing the longest match in tennis history over three days and more than 11 hours on court.
Isner fell to the ground on his back after his shot down the line completed the victory, 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (7-9), 7-6 (7-3), 70-68.
The first-round encounter, which was halted last night at 59-59 in the final set, lasted 11 hours, 5 minutes, including about one hour today. Started on June 22, the match latest almost 4½ hours longer than the previous record.
“I got a little bit tired, but when you come over and play a match like this, with an atmosphere like this, you don’t feel tired,” Isner said in a televised interview. “The crowd was fantastic.”
The players hugged at the net after Isner produced a backhand passing shot on his fifth match point.
“He’s a champion,” Mahut said. “We played the greatest match in the greatest place to play tennis.”
Isner and Mahut were presented on Court 18 with a special All England Club memento by former champion Ann Jones in recognition of playing the longest match in history, then posed by the scoreboard before leaving the court to cheers.
“At this moment, it’s just really painful,” Mahut, who struggled to speak initially as the crowd shouted his name, told the British Broadcasting Corp. “John deserved to win, he served unbelievable.”
Isner called Mahut “an absolute warrior.”
“It stinks that someone had to lose,” he added.
By the time darkness suspended their first-round match for the second straight night at 9:10 p.m. London time yesterday, Isner and Mahut had already played a record 163 games over 10 hours. A doctor was stationed courtside. The players had combined for a record 193 aces in the match, while the fifth set alone had lasted longer than the longest previous match ever played on the London grass courts.
Their match was played for the third consecutive day at the All England Club after it was twice suspended for darkness. Both players had resumed yesterday afternoon tied at two sets each. Crowds had started to gather around the 782-seat Court 18 hours before the start today.
“You should never say never, but I never thought I’d see anything like that, it was surreal,” Bud Collins, a broadcaster and tennis historian for more than 40 years, said in an interview at Wimbledon today.
Isner produced 246 winners, two more than Mahut. The American made 52 unforced errors in the match, compared with 39 for Mahut. Isner converted two of 14 break points, while Mahut only broke the American’s serve once in three chances.
As Isner and Mahut continued to hold serve in the fifth set, the International Tennis Federation said, records tumbled.
They played the most games in a match. Their 138-game fifth set is the longest in Grand Slam history. Isner’s 112 aces and Mahut’s 103, according to the tournament’s website, both broke Ivo Karlovic’s previous record of 78 in one match, for Croatia in a Davis Cup match against the Czech Republic in 2009.
The first-round match began two days ago. Isner, 25, won the first set. Mahut, 28, won the next two sets. Isner won the fourth set before play was suspended.
Mahut overcame four match points on his serve yesterday; one at 10-9, two at 33-32 and one at 59-58.
With the Frenchman serving to stay in the match at 69-68, Isner got to his fifth match point with a forehand passing shot. After sending a backhand passing shot past Mahut to take the match, he let out a scream and collapsed on the grass. It was the first break of serve since the first game of the second set.
The longest previous match was a 6-hour, 33-minute first-round contest at the 2004 French Open between Frenchmen Fabrice Santoro and Arnaud Clement.
The longest Wimbledon match before this was 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.
“It’s heroic,” 2004 champion Maria Sharapova said in a news conference today, after beating Romania’s Ioana Raluca Olaru. “What can you say? It’s pretty incredible.”
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