The Isner-Mahut contest was the greatest tennis match of our generation. Forget the fact that it was in the first round. It lasted 11 hours and five minutes and took place over three days!
The fifth set alone lasted over eight hours, until Isner finally broke Mahut to win, 70-68.
It was one of the greatest sports spectacles tennis fans—and sports fans for that matter—have ever seen. Do you want to know why it was so special? Because 10 years from now, we will remember that match for what it was and not who was holding the trophy at the end.
It was like the whole Summer Olympics wrapped into one match.
To start, you had the pageantry affect of Wimbledon, which in some ways is similar to that of the Olympics. You had the obvious marathon component and the element of it being a multi-day event as well.
You had the "wow" (read: marathon component) factor—people were simply stunned at their endurance and athletic abilities. On top of that, throw in Nadal and Federer's pure and genuine passion for the sport, in its most uncorrupted form, and we were hooked.
Just like some obscure olympic competition where the athletes capture the heart of their countrymen, as a sports nation we were suddenly gripped to the point that even passive sports fans were glued to the TV cheering for relative unknowns.
Then, add in the whole patriotic aspect that kind of grew as the match went on. Around, I don't know, say 30-30, an irrational pride in America overtook us and we were like: "Hell, if our boy loses to this punk-ass Frenchie..." But ultimately, when it was all said and done, nationality didn't matter because we were struck by a combination of respect, amazement and the beauty of the moment.
In the end, both players were truly winners for their efforts and we will forever hold them in the highest esteem for what they accomplished.
As Roger Federer put it, we didn't know whether to laugh or cry.
Fun match facts:
- Even though the match went to a tie breaker in the fourth set and the million games in the fifth, Isner only had 14 break-points and five match-points.
- Both players hit over 100 aces. Isner now holds the record for most hit in a match at 113, while Mahut is second at 103.
- The two players broke the physical court scoreboard and the IBM score-tracker online because programmers figured a match couldn't go that long.
- Andy Roddick brought "three boxes of pizza, all sorts of chicken and mashed potatoes for Isner"(as quoted in an article from Bloomberg).
- The two won an ESPY for "Best Record-Breaking Performance."
And guess what everybody? They get to do it again! Anybody want to take the over-under on one of them looking at the draw and being like "Ahhh crap, not again. No freaking way. I am not playing him again. Screw this, I forfeit!"?
Odds are (rather unfortunately) that it won't last as long the second time around. Unless the rains come, don't expect another three-day affair. For their tournament fortunes, let's hope it doesn't even take two days.
I just hope Wimbledon has a sense of humor and puts them back on court No. 18.