PHEW!! ISNER and MAHUT - it seemed like a final in a way, but it was only Round 1 - A MATCH OF A LIFETIME
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The Final Chapter of an epic tale: Isner 70 Mahut 68
The Wimbledon Marathon
Already in wikipedia Isner and Mahut_Match_at_the_2010_Wimbledon_Championships
Isner and Mahut given special awards
Click post title for Wimbledon website article: Miserable Mahut forced to grin and bear it
After their match was suspended for bad light on Tuesday, they arrived to start the concluding set at lunchtime on Wednesday - and were still there as the sun went down, having broken all known records but not the deadlock.
By John Feinstein
The best moments in sports are almost always those we least expect: The U.S. hockey team stunning the Soviet Union in the Lake Placid Olympics 30 years ago; Boris Becker winning Wimbledon 25 years ago when he was too young -- 17 -- to claim the world's most important tennis title; Tom Watson coming within inches of winning the British Open when he was too old -- 59 -- to compete for a major golf championship.
And then there are those moments that involve athletes most of us have never heard of and may never hear of again; moments that come out of nowhere and hold us spellbound. That's what John Isner and Nicolas Mahut did the past three days. They began a routine first-round match at Wimbledon on Tuesday, a long way -- literally and figuratively -- from historic Centre Court. They were sent out to play on Court 18, which is tucked into a corner of the Wimbledon grounds and has seats for a mere 782 people.
When they finally shook hands at the net on Thursday after playing five sets and 183 games -- the last 138 of them in the final set -- millions of people around the world were watching and wondering when one of them would finally crack or simply collapse. To put what these two men did into perspective, consider: Before this epic match, the longest fifth set in the history of Grand Slam tennis lasted 48 games -- 90 games fewer than Isner and Mahut played. The longest match in Grand Slam tennis history before this one lasted six hours and 33 minutes. The last set between Isner and Mahut took eight hours and 11 minutes.
In terms of other sports, we're talking about a 60-inning baseball game or a 10-quarter NFL playoff game. In other words, unreal.
While the numbers will be repeated often, they are a small part of what made this match special. There was no championship at stake. These were two little-known players fighting simply for the right to advance to the second round. Isner, who won the extraordinary final set, 70-68, will do well to survive his second-round match on Friday and is the longest of long shots to be playing the glamour rounds next weekend. At 25, he has never been beyond the round of 16 in a major tournament. He came to Wimbledon seeded 23rd -- meaning he was expected only to reach the round of 32.
Martina Navratilova's take on the longest matchBy Martina Navratilova
Source: LA Times
You know, I don't even know where to start.
Those guys [John Isner and Nicolas Mahut] were a great example of what our sport represents: two great athletes going at it, pushed beyond any limits we had thought about or that they had practiced for, and they've really set the bar high for everybody else.
These guys came through under amazing pressure time and time again, neither one flinching.
Isner won because he hit winners, not because one guy won it or lost it. It was an amazing effort emotionally, physically, gut-wise; they put everything in it.
At a certain point it can't be great tennis anymore. They can't run for shots, and you could tell they were physically saving themselves because you have to. If they had kept running, one of them would have lost because he would have gotten too tired. You start to think, 'Do I go for that or not? Is it worth it?'
At some point you have to think long-term when you realize there is no quick fix. I liken it to running a marathon, where you have to pace yourself. You can't go all out. But in a marathon you know where the finish line is. These guys didn't know that.
I could see Isner start saving himself, actually, at 5-all in the fifth, I thought.
Both of them, their serving was a thing of beauty. And still, when he had a chance at the end, Isner hit a winner. Amazing. They did the sport proud, and most impressively neither of them flinched mentally. They did not get nervous, never got nervous. I really saw no nerves.
I think whoever won this match was going to be so handicapped for the next. No doubt John [Isner] is fit, but I think it's going to be hard on him physically. I think it will hit him. It won't quite be an equal playing field.
I know this: What we saw here, we will never see again. It's not going to happen.
Navratilova, among her many Grand Slam victories, is a nine-time Wimbledon singles champion, a record.