2011 Wimbledon: 10 Reasons Why Isner vs. Mahut Will Not Last over 11 Hours Again
Last year's first round encounter between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut lasted over 11 hours and took place over the course of three days. Not only did the match become the longest match ever played, but the fifth set itself surpassed the length of the previous longest match in history.
This year's first round rematch at Wimbledon was laughable news to many when the draw was announced. Now, there will be even more people interested in watching the No. 4 American (currently ranked 46th) play the 99th ranked Frenchman.
But, most people are not thinking about whether Isner will duplicate his performance from a year ago or bow out in the first round. The main thought still makes all of us wonder: Will this match go the distance again?
This is the least important factor since big man John Isner probably cannot get in shape any more than he is right now. It is not easy to be able to play marathon matches standing at 6'9'' and weighing 245 pounds.
Since John already captured the historic victory last year, it seems as though he would not stay out on court with such fight and courage as long as he already did.
The win would be much more meaningful for Mahut since it would grant him revenge. Besides, the Frenchman has always been in incredible shape, and the distance of the match would not take a toll on him.
Keep in mind that prior to last year's epic match, Mahut played three qualifying matches with the final two displaying scores of 3-6, 6-3, 24-22 and 6-7, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4, respectively.
Isner needs an alternative to simply drinking coconut water if he wants to survive in another drastically long match and, unfortunately, he does not have one.
Mahut Getting Used to Loss
Nicolas Mahut was certainly distraught after losing in the first round last year after all the hard work he put into the match. He dealt with it very well, though, and did not let his career falter just because of that loss.
Mahut's win-loss record against Isner is now 1-2. Even after their 2010 Wimbledon match, they had a rematch at the 2011 Hopman Cup. Isner broke serve twice in the first set and won the second set in a tiebreak to close out the match in straight sets.
The Wimbledon encounter wasn't the first time Mahut endured a heartbreak, either. He had a 4-6, 7-6, 7-6 loss to Roddick in the final of the 2007 Queen's Club event on grass. Even at the ATP 1000 Masters Series event in Paris last year, Mahut suffered a 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 loss to fellow countryman Richard Gasquet in the first round.
So, Mahut is quite used to losing by now, especially in the first round and to Americans.
Both players saw themselves in the spotlight and the talk of all sporting news immediately after their historic battle.
The press was obviously more friendly to the American since he was the favorite to win and actually won after his time on the court. Mahut was not well-known at the time, but this year everybody knows who each player is and will anticipate an enjoyable match.
The feel of the crowd will be somewhat comical, since nobody would be that surprised if there was a fifth set, and if it indeed went to 16-14 or something along those lines.
Some people will be rooting for a never-ending match once again, which will greatly impact the players' minds and game plans on the court.
The fact that this matchup already occurred will nearly guarantee a less entertaining and lengthy match altogether.
Obviously, Isner has one of the best serves in the game. But, his serve patterns are getting more and more predictable now that he has been on the tour for four years.
Mahut may find that he serves more to one side of the box when he is in trouble and down break points. This could allow him to predict John's ball placement, chip and charge, and put a volley or overhead away on the next shot.
Also, Mahut's serve is not all that great compared to other players on the tour. John should be able to return it better than he did last year, considering his return game has improved.
These two will be very eager to get early breaks of serve in sets, and it seems outlandish to think that the match will only have three service breaks again.
Isner's Overall Game
John Isner is known for serving big and punishing his opponents with the following shot. He has dramatically improved his ground strokes, net game, return game, and even (dare I say it) defense.
He shocked the world by taking Rafael Nadal, the King of Clay, to five sets in the first round of this year's French Open. He was hanging in there with the ground stroke master and was unfazed by his opponent's reputation and ability.
Isner's aggressive play, especially his forehand, has made him a threat on every surface. The forehand has become a major weapon over the years, and Mahut can't be guaranteed easy points from the baseline anymore.
Maturity and Dealing with Pressure
Mahut is a funny person and enjoys putting on a show. This does imply, though, that he is not the most serious and focused player out there. His gameplay is fueled by his audience, and he does not endure much success because of his lack of a major crowd.
The American, on the other hand, grew much as a player and a person from his win last year. He never knows when he is defeated, and he approaches the game with a new attitude and a strong mentality. It is easy for him to deal with pressure moments, especially break points against his own serve.
His ranking has dropped severely from a career-high No. 18. He really does not have much to lose at Wimbledon since he only made it to the second round last year. This means the Big Man can play without feeling the same pressure as last year, and dropping his serve a few more times will not shake him up as badly as it would have in the fifth set of the 2010 match.
Possibility #1: Court 18
These two soldiers battled for three days straight on Court 18 at the All England Club last year. If they are placed on the same court again, they will certainly be used to the atmosphere and feel of the court.
Since they played on it during the first round, when it had new grass, they will not have any difficulty adjusting to the surface since it will exhibit the same conditions. This will make it easier for either player to step up his game a notch and take control of certain moments.
There will most likely be a full crowd again if this court is chosen for the two athletes.
Possibility #2: Stadium Court
After the popularity of last year's match skyrocketed, fellow players and tournament officials took notice.
Andy Murray recently tweeted that he wants to see these two play on centre court. Meanwhile, John Isner stated that it did not matter to him which court the rematch took place on, and that he would enjoy his time on the court either way.
If the committee decides to put the American and Frenchman on a stadium court, many new factors will come into play. Firstly, the challenge system will be available. Last year, Mahut questioned a few line calls during the latter stages of the match. Isner's serve is so fast and comes downward with such an angle from his height that it is not easy to see where his ball lands near the lines.
The availability of challenges can change the outcome of a set, or even the match, between these two players since one break of serve is an incredibly huge deal.
Also, the crowd will have tens of thousands of people spectating, a much more massive number compared to the outside courts. This will add even more tension, and it is very rare that Mahut finds himself playing on a stadium court at a Grand Slam.
John Isner will be even more of a favorite to win if the match is moved to a larger court with a more hectic atmosphere. The size of John Isner correlates with the size of the court he plays on, and he would most likely prefer a big, main court.
The Match Took a Toll on John Isner
Every tennis fan knows that John Isner is not very fit, and we cannot blame him for that. But, he did last until the end of the 11-hour and 5-minute long marathon match; plus, he won on top of that. The physicality that the Floridian exerted would have been almost unheard of prior to the first round match just a year ago.
He went on to face Thiemo de Bakker in the second round and got demolished 6-0, 6-3, 6-2 in just 74 minutes. His foot was injured, he was incredibly weary, and it took him several months to recover, probably just as long as it took Nicolas Mahut to recover from the loss.
Perhaps, the big-serving American would lessen his efforts if the match goes the distance once more. One match at Wimbledon, especially one in the first round, should not affect the rest of the season for him.
The historic match created a friendship between the two warriors. They talk to each other a good amount and even considered sharing a practice session before the draw came out. They both joked about playing each other again, and it actually happened much to everyone's disbelief.
Last year, these two were opponents that were fighting each other with all of their might. This year, they are friends, and the rivalry will never feel the same again. For that reason, this match should not go beyond four sets. So do not look for this match to exceed 68-68 in the fifth set again.
All of these factors will play a role in determining the outcome of the match. It all depends on how each player plays on the given day. This might be the most popular and watched first round match of all-time, and we all thought there were no more records left for them to break.