Looking back at the longest tennis matches ever

·4 min read

Looking back at the longest tennis matches ever originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The City That Never Sleeps certainly lived up to its title on Thursday.

Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner’s quarterfinal bout at the 2022 U.S. Open did not conclude until 2:50 a.m. ET, marking the latest finish in tournament history. Alcaraz ultimately advanced to the semifinals by earning a 6-3, 6-7 (7), 6-7 (0), 7-5, 6-3 victory that spanned five hours and 15 minutes.

Though it set a new record for the U.S. Open, it’s still far from the lengthiest match in tennis history. Not even close, actually.

What is the longest tennis match of all time?

The longest tennis match in history featured five sets, three days and a 138-point tiebreaker.

John Isner outlasted Nicolas Mahut in a first-round match at the 2010 Wimbledon men’s singles tournament that spanned 11 hours and five minutes, shattering the record for longest match of all time.

The two players split the first four sets during the first day of the match, which was halted due to a lack of natural light at the venue. On the second day of play, the scoreboard stopped working once Isner and Mahut got to 47-47 in the fifth set. 

It wasn’t until the third day that Isner finally got the edge. He held serve on the 137th point and broke serve on the decisive 138th point, giving him an unforgettable 6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 70-68 triumph.

Five longest tennis matches of all time

The Isner-Mahut marathon is almost as long as the next two longest tennis matches combined.

Here is the full top five, including another lengthy match with Isner at the All England Club:

1. John Isner vs. Nicolas Mahut, 2010 Wimbledon: 11 hours, 5 minutes (across 3 days)

2. Tomáš Berdych and Lukáš Rosol vs. Stanislas Wawrinka and Marco Chiudinelli, 2013 Davis Cup: 7 hours, 1 minute

3. Leonardo Mayer vs. João Souza, 2015 Davis Cup: 6 hours, 43 minutes

4. Kevin Anderson vs. John Isner, 2018 Wimbledon: 6 hours, 36 minutes

5. Fabrice Santoro vs. Arnaud Clément, 2004 French Open: 6 hours, 33 minutes (across 2 days)

Longest tennis match at each Grand Slam

While Wimbledon and the French Open have been home to three of the longest tennis matches ever, the Australian Open and U.S. Open have prolonged contests, as well.

The two Grand Slams have also seen their most drawn-out matches in the late stages of their respective tournaments. Had the Alcarez-Sinner quarterfinal gone 15 minutes longer, it would have set a new U.S. Open record for longest match.

Here are the longest men’s singles matches in the history of each Grand Slam:

  • Australian Open: 2012 final, Novak Djokovic vs. Rafael Nadal – 5 hours, 53 minutes

  • French Open: 2004 first round, Fabrice Santoro vs. Arnaud Clément – 6 hours, 33 minutes

  • U.S. Open: 1992 semifinal, Stefan Edberg vs. Michael Chang – 5 hours, 26 minutes

  • Wimbledon: 2010 first round, John Isner vs. Nicolas Mahut – 11 hours, 5 minutes

Longest women’s tennis match of all time

Since women’s tennis matches are best-of-three sets compared to best-of-five on the men’s side in Grand Slams, it would make sense that the longest women’s match is significantly shorter than the men’s. While no match compares to Isner-Mahut, a 1984 bout between Vicki Nelson and Jean Hepner holds its own unique place in history.

Nelson only needed two sets to beat Hepner in the first round at the Central Fidelity Banks International, but the match still took a staggering, unmatched six hours and 31 minutes to complete. Twenty-nine of those minutes came in a single rally.

Let me reiterate: There was a 29-minute rally.

The point featured 643 shots after Nelson finally earned the winner. It had been set point for Hepner, who had led the second-set tiebreaker 11-10 at the start. Nelson proceeded to win the next two points and earned a hard-fought 6-4, 7-6 (13-11) victory.

Nelson-Hepner held the record for longest professional tennis match of any kind until the Santoro-Clément match at the French Open 20 years later. It also remains one of just two women’s singles matches to eclipse five hours.