Isner wins longest-ever Wimbledon match
June 24th, 2010
12:00 PM ET

The epic match that finally ended: Isner beats Mahut

[Updated at 11:56 a.m.] Nicolas Mahut sat his prize down and took a big breath as the Wimbledon crowd applauded for him.

After the match was immediately over, Mahut buried his head in his towel, frustrated with the loss. Still, Mahut acted like a champion, speaking on court after the match.

"It was amazing to think of you guys you [the crowd] you were completely fantastic and John deserves to win it's so unbelievable," Mahut said. "He's a champion. He was - it really was an honor to play - we played the greatest match ever in the greatest place ever."

Mahut was in a tough position, always being down to Isner's serve and trying to come back. Asked about it, Mahut said that wasn't part of his mindset.

"It was not thinking about [that] I was just thinking about winning the game I was playing ... again and again," he said. "It was very long but I think we both enjoy[ed] it."

[Updated at 11:53 a.m.] After the match ended, John Isner, was asked "The world's press, the world's media is watching, how do you feel?"

"[I] got a little bit tired but when you come out and play a match like this, in an atmosphere like this you don't feel tired...this crowd was fantastic," Isner said.

Asked about his opponent Nicholas Mahut, who now has the second most aces ever in a tennis match, Isner said it was an "honor" to play him.

"What more can you say the guy's an absolute warrior," Isner said. "It stinks that someone had to lose."

UGA coach: Isner's strength 'culmination of years of effort'

[Updated at 11:51 a.m] Eleven hours and five minutes - and three days after their match first started - it is finally over.

The All-England Club said they decided to reward special mementos to the umpire and two players "in recognition of this quite extraordinary, unbelievable match."

[Updated at 11:47 a.m.] The match that kept on going - finally came to an end.

John Isner put a three-day match to rest with a final shot that gave him the 70-68 tiebreaker win in the fifth set.

Nicolas Mahut, Isner's challenger, left the court immediately. He shook his head when stopped.

[Posted at 9:56 a.m.] Will the third time be the charm for John Isner and Nicolas Mahut? Not the third set, or their third time meeting, but their third day of play at Wimbledon. It's been a match that has lasted 10 hours and been stopped twice due to darkness, and the fifth set has lasted 118 games by itself.

On Thursday, the pair is trying again, with the score standing at 59-59 in the fifth. They're hoping to find a conclusion to a grueling, record-breaking length game (163 games total so far.) SI.com live scoreboard

The two players, fairly unknown to many who aren't avid tennis watchers, have attracted a huge amount of attention due to their ongoing match. It seems to be a feat many can't believe is still going on.

"I thought I was tired. I’m tired of watching this," John McEnroe said at the beginning of the game to ESPNU, which is airing the match. "I’m quite proud of this. It's beyond heroic. It’s herculean. What they are doing - their will is unbelievable. I had to come pay my respects to both of them. Neither one is giving in."

Isner's coach, Craig Boynton, told ESPNU that to win the match Isner needed to use his strength wisely and wait for the right opportunities.

Asked if the fact that Isner was still standing was a testament to his strength, Boynton said: "I don't think anyone trains for this. Its sheer will and determination."

The match absolutely eclipses any of the long classic tennis matches we've seen - like last year's Wimbledon final between Roger Federer and Andy Roddick that went to a dramatic 16-14 end. That game had the stars, but these guys have clear heart and endurance, so much so that SI.com's Bruce Jenkins likens the Federer-Roddick finale to now looking "rather paltry." Indeed, as Jenkins argues, the score in this match seems a whole lot more like the score at "halftime of an NBA game."

SI.com: Isner, Mahut staging most amazing first-rounder in Grand Slam history

Here's some stats for comparison:

- The length of the longest previous game came in 2004 at the French Open. Total length: six hours and 33 minutes. Isner and Mahut beat that in the ongoing fifth set alone at seven hours.

- As an extreme tennis watcher friend of mine explained Wednesday night - if you were able to break up the long fifth set into 13-game virtual sets, the Isner-Mahut match was ended Wednesday one game into the 14th set.

- The pair have a total combined 193 aces: Isner with 98 and Mahut with 95. The previous Wimbledon ace record was 51.

SI.com's Jon Wertheim tried to put the match in historical perspective.

"There was a doubles match at Wimbledon in 2007 where Brazil's Marcelo Meloand Andre Sa won 28-26 in the fifth set and everybody sort of giggled and made jokes about these two little-known players from Brazil having their day in the sun. Well, this match's fifth set will more than double that."

"It makes me proud to be a tennis player," said John McEnroe, who was handling the BBC broadcast of the match said at one point. "It looks like Isner is about to fall over."

There's been debate on the Web between those who argue it's unfair the match was suspended again due to darkness and those who want the two to be able to continue to duke it out without any stoppage.

"I love this," Roger Federer said, according to an ESPN article. "I'm sure they don't love this, but in some ways this is unheard of in our game. I don't know if I was laughing or crying."

Some wondered how much these guys will have left in the tank when they take to the court again - though they were able to get another night's sleep.

Blog: Physical, mental toll of the match

It seems like that was an option Isner was hoping he wouldn't have to endure. According to The New York Times, Mahut approached the umpire and said he couldn't see - and Isner wasn't thrilled.

“We couldn’t agree to play,” Isner told the Times. “So they canceled."

Despite the momentary frustration, the match has been a momentous one for the sport - perhaps another chance to draw fans in - especially when they are playing in the wake of a World Cup that suddenly has U.S. fans paying big attention. Isner's name was thrown into the Twitterverse, Facebook posts and Web searches - at times eclipsing the big news of the day of a U.S. soccer win and Gen. Stanley McChrystal's resignation.

"On balance, it is a good thing," SI.com's Wertheim said, after fearing at first there should be a system change and arguing the match was getting a bit ridiculous. "It's a World Cup day and everyone wants to talk about tennis."

soundoff (109 Responses)
  1. Cynthia Anselmi

    Will they break into the soccer game to see the tennis match?

    June 24, 2010 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Barney

      I think these guys are faking it and are trying to just get into the record book. Imagine how much fun they had in the lockerroom setting this up. On TV for 3 days straight all over the world, all newspapers writing about them, they probably count on a TV movie as well. In the beginning it was fun and amzing, now it's becoming just too abvious.

      June 24, 2010 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
    • steven

      Thats about the dumbest thing to think they are faking this.

      June 24, 2010 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
  2. Jon NY

    While it's exciting and we see these 2 athletes are evenly matched, something needs to be done regarding 'tie breakers'.

    June 24, 2010 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      Yeah, we can put a couple of rednecks on the sidelines with shotguns and make it a dual sport. Tennis and skeet shooting.

      June 24, 2010 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
  3. Texas Pete

    stopping for the night??? What kind of wimpy sport is this. Play until one wins, or one collapses. You don't let the players go home for a nap in a baseball game, even if it is in the 20th inning.

    June 24, 2010 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Ah yes baseball... the sport where people get paid millions of dollars on average to sit on a bench for half of the game while waiting for their at-bat... and the other half of the game waiting in the field for a ball to be hit their way. Last I checked, tennis players are a *lot* more active during their games than baseball players...

      June 24, 2010 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Sue

      Are you serious?? Comparing baseball to tennis is like comparing a groundsloth to a cheetah. Baseball players aren't running/moving non-stop; they're standing around in the field or waiting for their turn at bat 90% of the game. There is just no comparison between the two. Singles tennis is FAR more physically – and mentally – grueling.

      June 24, 2010 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Tongla

      It was dark and no lights...dimwit!

      June 24, 2010 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Fan

      Just two days ago a college world series game was postponed until the next day due to weather. The resumed the game the next day, they did not continue later that night when the storm passed. It happens in baseball too....

      June 24, 2010 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Kit-Kat

      For Pete's sake there are not any lights yet. They will get them next year.

      June 24, 2010 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
    • steven

      actually there is a comparison, while most of the players do sit or stand around for a good majority of the game, the pitchers don't get a break. btw in hockey they have the same rules, play during the play offs til its over and if you think that sitting on the bench for a minute or so between shifts is a major break then you need to give your head a shake.

      I massively applaud these two great tennis players, but do think they should have to play through till the match ends.

      June 24, 2010 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Fenrisbh1

      Idiot. The match was called because of darkness. If baseball was played on a field w/o lights, they'd have to call off the game, too. There is no night play at Wimbledon.

      June 24, 2010 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • mma24

      yes you do. you call the game because of darkness. what kind of baseball are you watching?

      June 24, 2010 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Texas Pete is a Dumb Dumb

      No lights at Wimbledon. now if they had a glow in the dark tennis ball and raquets, and lines on the court....thats a different story.

      June 24, 2010 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • john

      baseball=BORING!!!

      June 24, 2010 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      The longest game in major league baseball history was played over two days. May 8, 1994, The White Sox and Brewers game was stopped after 17 innings at 1:05 in the morning of the 9th. The game was then finished later that day, going 25 innnings and lasting 8 hours and 6 minutes. The final score: White Sox 7 Brewers 6.

      June 24, 2010 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Sorry. That was May 8, 1984.

      June 24, 2010 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason

      Isn't it insane how Wimbledon still doesn't have any lights? I find it absolutely ridiculous, especially because of how prestigious this tournament is.

      June 24, 2010 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jaime Greer

      Baseball players can nap on the bench they sit on for most the game tennis players can't during their game.

      June 24, 2010 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Stizzle

      Texas pete likes little boys

      June 24, 2010 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • chuck

      Texas Pete: Cant agree with you more..tennis is a wimpy game unlike baseball..wonder why pitchers are relieved in baseball though....hmmmm..perhaps we should have relief servers and relief receivers in tennis too, eh???

      June 24, 2010 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • D

      People who watch and love baseball are fat cows..

      June 24, 2010 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • auflyer06

      you have obviously never played tennis if you're trying to compare it to baseball of all things....the "sport" filled with fat pitchers and steroid infused players who stand around for 3-4 hours. And of course they sit in a dugout for at least half the game. To play at that level for 11 hours over three days is ridiculous.

      June 24, 2010 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      Sue ain't got a clue.

      June 24, 2010 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
  4. sherlon

    Its like a cricket match. its GREEEAAATTT!

    June 24, 2010 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
  5. slappy white

    You know what, who cares. Get this stupid thing over with.

    June 24, 2010 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
    • jAR

      What, are you playing next or something? Apparently you care, for no apparent reason.

      June 24, 2010 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
  6. Tongla

    It was too dark to play and that court has no lights....dimwit!

    June 24, 2010 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
  7. RetroMan

    three word solution..... rock, paper, scissors.

    June 24, 2010 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
  8. BuzzMann

    When I was a kid we used to wait till dark to play backyard football.Called it blind football.Lots of us got hurt on kickoffs cause you couldn't see the ball till it hit you in the face .LOL good times.

    June 24, 2010 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
  9. Kit-Kat

    Give me a break, u mean to tell me that one guy can not win 2 points back to back. Either both these guys really stink. Where is the spirit to finish, does neither one of these guys have that edge. Is this a once and a lifetime deal..yes. Is Wim. going to get lights after this..probably at least on a court or two.

    June 24, 2010 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
    • CM

      You might do well to learn the rules of the sport before making stupid comments. They don't need to win 2 points in a row – they need to win two GAMES in a row. Idiot.

      June 24, 2010 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
    • NM

      The problem isn't that they can't win two points back-to-back. It's that they can't win two *games* back-to-back. They aren't tied 59 points to 59 points, but 59 games.

      June 24, 2010 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
    • PTR

      Wow. You have to win 2 GAMES back to back. I'm sure each of them has won NUMEROUS back to back points. Understand the sport before you comment

      June 24, 2010 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
    • bjorn

      Actually, if you're down one game, you can win the next two in a row and only be up one. So someone may need to win three back to back, or at least be even when they win two in a row to finish this. Math is hard. So is tennis.

      June 24, 2010 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
    • JA

      Actually, each has probably won back to back games in this fifth set. If they are down a game and win 2 in a row, the set is not finished. You need to win by 2 games...

      June 24, 2010 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
    • CM

      JA – they haven't won 2 games back to back, actually. There have been no breaks of serve in the over 8 hours of play in the fifth set. They have won every other game fro 137 games.

      June 24, 2010 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
    • yesh

      why dont you flip your reasoning maybe they have the will notr to lose which is why each of them kept fighting thier way back

      June 24, 2010 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  10. KWStad

    This is exactly WHY they came up with the tiebreaker. Too bad Wimbledon is so Draconian they can't employ it for the final set. Should you REALLY have to play 118+ games to determine a fifth set winner? Utterly ridiculous for everyone!

    June 24, 2010 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Don

      Keep in mind that the French and Australian Opens, and the Davis (and, I assume, Federation) Cup are equally as "draconian" in thinking that, just maybe, a match shouldn't be decided on something as arbitrary as a tiebreak. That being said, they do need to draw the line somewhere – say, at 14 games all in the final set? (This has been a real problem in doubles.)

      June 24, 2010 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
    • CM

      Yes, this is getting ridiculous. Obviously whoever wins is going to lose in the second round anyway....

      June 24, 2010 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
  11. Texas Pete

    Are they too poor to install proper lights then? What a farce.

    June 24, 2010 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
    • CrysAnn

      It's about tradition, not lack of funding. Even here in the US there has recently been lots of controversy when some baseball fields finally installed lights so they could play night games – some people reacted as if it was the worst thing that ever happened to the game.

      June 24, 2010 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
    • steven

      But they DID add them

      June 24, 2010 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Livvy

      wow, are you just on here to prove how ignorant you are? And to bring shame on the state of Texas?
      First off – baseball is in no way as grueling as tennis -not even if they played 118 innings. And to the idiot who said pitchers don't get a break...hello? Pitchers are replaced all the time if they start getting tired, or just start to suck. Now the comment with the lights..... this wasn't center court – just one of the many many smaller courts available for first round, where no one expected any match to go more than a couple of hours. And for those mention Hockey – a – it's a team sport, where no one guy is trying to cover 100% of the ice 100% of the time, and b – if they played an 11 hour game until final sudden death overtime, I'd be pretty darn impressed with them as well.

      June 24, 2010 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Bubba Ingles

    "What they're doing – they're will is unbelievable."

    they're / their

    It doesn't take a rocket scientician.

    June 24, 2010 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
    • jAR

      I saw that, too. One would think journalists should have to learn the language in which they write, but apparently it's not so.

      June 24, 2010 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Grondahl

      Or as I like to put it, Rocket Surgery.

      June 24, 2010 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
    • CrysAnn

      It's getting to be apalling how horrible the grammar is in supposedly legitimate news sites these days.

      June 24, 2010 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Kraznodar

      Scientician? Not a real word. Isn't it embarrassing to have bad grammar when chastising bad grammar? I hate it when i do that.

      June 24, 2010 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      Kraznodar, are you retarded? It was obviously a joke.

      June 24, 2010 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • elsie

      Heh... Kraznodar, I guess you've never seen the Simpsons.

      June 24, 2010 at 6:12 pm | Report abuse |
  13. FKat

    Won't this severely delay the other men's Wimbledon matches since the second round can't start yet?

    June 24, 2010 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
  14. Their will is unbelievable!

    See fourth paragraph: "they're will is unbelievable" – really CNN? Must be a summer intern who wrote the piece.

    June 24, 2010 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
    • erg722

      Completely agree. Just horrible writing.

      June 24, 2010 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Christy

      I emailed CNN a Grammar and Punctuation Error Report. Here's the link if you ever want to let them know about an error:

      http://www.cnn.com/feedback/forms/form7.html?1

      June 24, 2010 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
  15. scat10

    The French guy needs to man-up. He's shown twice on his knees crying.

    June 24, 2010 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
    • JAB

      You have obviously never played a sport and left it out on the field/court/whatever. Man-up. Sheesh!

      June 24, 2010 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
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