Remembering John Isner Vs Nicolas Mahut 10 Years On
On June 24th 2010 John Isner and Nicolas Mahut finally finished a match at Wimbledon that took place over three days, with the pair spending over 11 hours on court, smashing records for the longest match in tennis history.
Isner and Mahut met in the first round of the 2010 Men's Singles tournament at Wimbledon with the match taking place on Court 18 and starting in the evening of June 22nd, the second day of the tournament.
By 9.07pm the pair had played four sets of tennis with the match tied 2-2; 6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 6-7, the last two sets decided on tie breaks, but the match had to be suspended before the deciding set due to bad light.
They returned the next day to continue their slog and, unlike other Grand Slam events, there was no tie break to be had in the fifth set so both men knew they would have to continue until one of them was two games clear.
Isner had a match point at 9-10 in the fifth but the American saw it disappear, at 16-16 all they'd passed the longest fifth set in terms of games in tennis history and once more the 23rd seed blew match points at 32-33.
In the final game of the second day of the match Isner had his fourth match point at 58-59 but instead of ending it there it was taken to a third day of play.
The following day at 68-68 Mahut had a big chance at 0-30 but blew it and the Frenchman saw his opponent win the next four shots on serve in-a-row.
Both men passed over 100 aces in the gruelling match and at 68-69, on his own serve, Mahut had the chance to go 30-15 up but put his drop shot into the net, with his opponent back on the baseline and unable to get forward that quickly.
It proved to be a significant blow as just three points later, after three epic days on Court 18, with 782 fans watching, and plenty more trying to get a glimpse from anywhere, the match was finally won.
Isner's backhand, which went down the line, saw him go to 70-68 up in the final set and he unsurprisingly dropped to the ground in celebration. The match beat the previous longest ever match record by over four and a half ours.
Incredibly the match was BBC commentator Ronald McIntosh's first ever Wimbledon match that he broadcasted on.
Fellow Beeb commentator, and former British number one, Annabel Croft was on commentary on Centre Court on day one for a much quicker Venus Williams match. " I was commentating on a Venus Williams match on Centre Court that day and Isner vs Mahut was on court 18," Croft told SPORTbible exclusively.
"I also remember in the commentators room before they headed out, there was Ronald McIntosh, he was new to tennis, and Greg Rusedski was on with him and they were all joking about heading out to do this big serving match and, how they were going to cover it. They went out to Court 18, I went off to Centre, finished the venus match, which wasn't overly long and then I was released from the grounds, I went to do the school run, picked up one of my kids and then dropped her at gym club and went to do some shopping. And every time I got in the car the match was still going. Then I came home, I got a glass of wine and I sat watching it until they stopped it because of bad light and I still couldn't believe I'd done a whole day like that and this match hadn't even finished.
"There was quite a bit of banter in the commentators room about how many times you can describe a serve, it was an ace every point. I felt so sorry for Ronald, he was so nice. There was a lot of banter. Even Greg, who had a big serve himself, was laughing about it. I mean how many different ways can you say 'that was another ace.'
"It was just one of those things that you couldn't quite believe what you were witnessing. You knew it was something special and it was going to be in the history books, it's almost like the greatest ever sporting contest."
Unsurprisingly Isner was knackered after the match and had no days to rest as he came back the next day for his second round match against Thiemo de Bakker.
De Bakker's first round match went to 16-14 in the fifth set but he was still far fresher and won 6-0, 6-3, 6-2, with Isner serving no aces and the match lasted just 74 minutes, a complete contrast to his previous three days.
Just a year later Isner and Mahut met again in the first round of Wimbledon but this time the American powered through in straight sets, although two tie breaks were still needed.
And the American is the reason that fifth sets now enter a tie-break at 13-13 in the fifth set at Wimbledon. His 26-24 fifth set loss in the semi-final in 2018 to Kevin Anderson left the South African knackered for his final against Novak Djokovic.
It means no match will ever go as long as Isner and Mahut's epic. A sporting contest really like no other.
Wimbledon Rewind and Wimbledon: The Best of the Championships will be on BBC Two from 29 June