Never before had a first round match played on a minor court became an instant classic.
Until The Match…
In the 2010 Wimbledon first round, the Isner vs Mahut, apparently a match like any other first round match, beat all the records—pulverized them actually. In a match that lasted 11 hours and five minutes (the previous record was six hours and three minutes in Roland Garros) over three days, Isner eventually won 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (7-9), 7-6 (7-3), and 70-68 (in a fifth set that lasted eight hours and 11 minutes and was alone longer than the previous longest match in history).
In the end, they were both winners. Records broken (besides longest match) include number of aces (Isner 112, Mahut 103, while the previous record was 78), most games played (183, while the previous record was 112), longest fifth set (obviously), most points in a tennis match (Mahut 502, Isner 478)…
This match is a fine example of what sport is all about: both athletes gave it their all, went way beyond their physical and mental limits, and put everything on the line to win, even knowing that, due to their heroic effort, whoever won would have no chance of progressing further into the tournament draw.
It was something beautiful to watch; Isner seemed about to crack several times, but he always found the force to continue holding serve. Mahut, on the other hand, was still diving for balls with 50-50 in the final set. These guys might never be Grand Slam champions or even top-10 players, but this match has booked them a place in tennis history forever (in all likelihood, a match like this will never happen again). Even the great Roger Federer praised them on their fantastic match and, for three days, Court 18 of the All England Club was the centre of the tennis world.
It’s impossible to describe in words what these guys accomplished, but those who saw The Match know exactly what I’m talking about.
Isner lost the following day against Thiemo de Bakker in the second round 6-0, 6-3, and 6-2, and Mahut would lose in doubles, but, as far as tennis and sports fans are concerned, they’re both champions!