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Fueled By Roddick’s Pizza Delivery, Isner Wins Longest Match

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John Isner celebrates winning
John Isner of USA celebrates winning on the third day of his first round match against Nicolas Mahut of France on Day Four of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships in London. Photographer: Julian Finney/Getty Images

June 25 (Bloomberg) -- John Isner, exhausted after being forced off court for the second day with no end in sight to the longest tennis match ever played, used Andy Roddick’s fast-food delivery to help get him through.

“Andy just brought me all sorts of stuff,” Isner said in a news conference yesterday. “There was three boxes of pizza, all sorts of chicken and mashed potatoes, anything. I would have eaten 12 Big Macs.”

After the fast-food feast and four hours sleep at his Wimbledon rental home, Isner returned to Court 18 at the All England Club yesterday with the fifth set of his first-round match against Nicolas Mahut of France tied at 59-59. An hour later, the American collapsed on the grass when his backhand passing shot secured a record-packed 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (7-9), 7-6 (7-3), 70-68 victory that took 11 hours, 5 minutes.

“I was completely delirious,” Isner said.

With the 25-year-old due on Court 5 at noon London time today, the gap until his second-round match against Thiemo de Bakker of the Netherlands is shorter than the time it took Isner to oust Mahut.

Former top-ranked Justine Henin starts on Centre Court against Russia’s Nadia Petrova, where defending men’s champion Roger Federer plays France’s Arnaud Clement in the last match of the day. Five-time champion Venus Williams meets Alisa Kleybanova of Russia on Court 1. Roddick, Isner’s friend and last year’s Wimbledon runner-up, will play Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber in the last match scheduled on Court 1.

Florida Heat

Isner thanked his trainer for getting him through the longest match ever played, both in duration and games. After losing in the third round of the French Open, the 23rd-seeded American worked on his fitness in the heat and humidity of Florida.

“My coach actually, believe it or not, said jokingly before the tournament started that I’ll be able to play 10 hours,” Isner said. “That’s the truth. After practicing at Saddlebrook in Tampa in that heat, he was right.”

The 138-game fifth set lasted 8:11, longer than the previous longest match. Started on June 22, the contest lasted more than 4 1/2 hours longer than the previous record, a 6:33 first-round contest at the 2004 French Open between Frenchmen Fabrice Santoro and Arnaud Clement.

Isner, who played college tennis at the University of Georgia, said his mental toughness also helped.

College Days

“I always find myself very, very calm and controlled,” he said. “I learned that in my time in college, playing a lot of pressure-filled matches.”

Isner’s 112 aces and Mahut’s 103, according to the tournament’s website, both broke Ivo Karlovic’s record of 78 in a Davis Cup match for Croatia against the Czech Republic in 2009.

“An amazing match,” 2008 champion Rafael Nadal said in a news conference after he advanced to the third round with a five-set win over Robin Haase of the Netherlands. “To focus for around 10 hours, that’s amazing, to not lose the serve in all that time.”

Isner, a 6-foot-9 right-hander from Greensboro, North Carolina, spent four years at Georgia, where he was the school’s all-time leader in singles and doubles wins, according to his profile on the ATP World Tour website. He turned pro when he was 22.

“Obviously it’s not the magnitude that this is,” said Isner, who wore a University of Georgia T-shirt at the press conference. “That’s something that Coach (Manny) Diaz at Georgia was really good at, was able to really make me a lot mentally stronger. That’s one of the reasons I’m here today.”

Improved Fitness

Former U.S. Open champion Tracy Austin, who sat next to Isner’s mother, Karen, during some parts of the match against Mahut, said earlier that he’s come a long way since leaving school.

“Isner wasn’t a particularly outstanding player, but he always had the big serve,” Austin said in an interview at the French Open. “He got in better shape and started to move a little better. And he started to play tennis, he started to construct points. He learned about the game at a later age.”

The marathon against Mahut will only be a footnote in his career, Isner said.

“Hopefully, this won’t be the thing that I’m most remembered about,” he said. “I have what it takes to do some really big things in this game.”

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

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Elser at celser@bloomberg.net

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