Wed Jun 23 05:03pm EDT
Epic doesn't even begin to cover it.
After 10 hours, 163 games and almost 1,000 points, American John Isner and Frenchman Nicolas Mahut were locked at 59-59 in the fifth set of their historic first-round match at Wimbledon when play was suspended for the second straight day due to darkness.
You read the score correctly: 59-59. When the Wimbledon final had a 16-14 final set last year, that seemed like a marathon. In comparison, this match was like running to the moon.
[PHOTOS: Isner and Mahut's exhausting battle]
The pair started play on Tuesday, splitting four sets before play was halted due to a lack of light. They resumed Wednesday afternoon and figured to be on the court for around an hour to finish their fifth set. Improbably and amazingly, the men were still on Court 18 as the sun set at the All England Club seven hours later. Isner could barely move. Mahut looked punch-drunk. Yet they soldiered on, playing in front of a stunned crowd and a worldwide audience which grew by the minute, as word of the match spread through the sports world. On a day where the World Cup figured to be the top story in sports, two unheralded players on a distant court at Wimbleon stole the show.
The tennis itself wasn't especially riveting for most of the play on Wednesday as big serves, the speedy grass court and fatigue made for quick rallies and short service games. There were very few break chances — Mahut only had one break point prior to the 147th game and Isner just had four break points of his own — but the drama and mind-boggling length of the set more than made up for it.
Consider: The longest previous set at Wimbledon lasted 46 games. Isner-Mahut didn't just shatter the record, they obliterated it.
Among the other remarkable statistics from the match:
— It's the longest match in tennis history: 10 hours. The previous record was 6 hours, 33 minutes.
— Longest set in tennis history: 118 games.
— Most games in tennis history: 163 (previous record was 112).
— Both players broke the ATP record for most aces in a match. Isner had 98, Mahut hit 95. The previous record was 78. Combined, the two had 193 aces, more than double the old record of 96.
— Mahut had just three break points during the entire match.
— The first four sets took 2 hours, 54 minutes. The fifth set is at 7 hours, 6 minutes and counting.
— Mahut won 448 points to Isner's 428. Isner had more winners: 333 to 318.
— The final set is longer than the previous longest match in tennis history. That was 6 hours, 33 minutes.
— Isner had four match points, one at 11-10, two others at 33-32 and another at 59-58. The first and last match points came nearly six hours apart.
— At 50-50, Mahut had two break points and Isner promptly served a 134 mph ace.
— With Mahut serving at 52-53, the pair exchanged a 16-shot rally which ended with a Mahut forehand winner. It was the longest rally of the match. On the next point, Mahut dove for a backhand at the baseline following another long rally.
— The players took their first bathroom break at 58-58. While walking in the tunnel, they exchanged pleasantries, the first time they had spoken all evening.
— Mahut only qualified for Wimbledon after winning a qualifying match in a 24-22 final set.
— The match is almost two hours longer than the longest Major League Baseball game in history (an 8:06 game between the White Sox and Brewers in 1984).
— The scoreboard stopped working at 47-47.
We'll never see the likes of this again.
The match is scheduled to be completed on Thursday afternoon. But Wimbledon organizers may want to keep a court open for Friday, just in case.