Thursday, June 24, 2010

The most epic tennis match ever (Part 2)

Well, the World's Longest Ever Tennis Match recommenced at about 15.40 UK time at 59-59 and I'm blogging it as it happens...

Game 119
Started rather inauspiciously for John Isner as he opened with a double fault. But, gradually, he found the length of his serve and rattled down his 99th and 100th aces of the match to take it to 59-60.

Game 120
Mahut, in his first service game of the day (and 60th in total of the set) seemed to get into the swing of things a lot quicker and, with a good serve, managed to bring it level again with few difficulties, making the score 60-60.

Game 121
Isner, while not as explosive with his serve, was more commanding and, despite a few shots from Mahut that were inches from being winners, it was a fairly easy hold to Isner and the match moved to 60-61.

Game 122
Isner started by getting to the net and making it 0-15 but Mahut immediately replied with aces number 97, 98 and 99 to make it 40-15 and, despite a small rally on the final point, Mahut closes the game out to make it 61-61.

Game 123
Isner - as you might imagine - is looking more than a little weary. Doesn't stop him from slamming down ace number 103 and 104 to close the game out. 61-62.

Game 124
Mahut and Isner seem blissfully unaware that the aim of tennis is to determine a winner and a loser. Mahut looks much the sharper - for a player who played tennis for several hours yesterday he's looking remarkably chipper - while Isner (while not as zombie-like as last night) seems far more tired. Mahut hits his 100th and 101st aces of the match to make it 62-62.

Game 125
New balls give Isner the chance to rack up a few more aces and he takes the opportunity immediately by firing his 105th ace of the match to make it 15-0. A nice shot at the net makes it 30-0 but a shot into the net gives Mahut the sense that Isner is tiring. But, tiring or not, he can still serve, by God! Ace number 106 for 40-15. Mahut again gets an error from Isner's forehand to make it 40-30. But Isner's serve does the business, 62-63.

Game 126
Mahut just seems to be finding his service games a little easier than Isner and Isner is struggling to make any real inroads into Mahut's serve. A love service game for Mahut to make it 63-63.

Game 127
Isner again begins the game looking tired and Mahut immediately gets a point on his serve - but a big 138mph serve gives Mahut very little chance and makes it 15-15. But Isner has the energy to sprint into the net for a bit of serve-and-volley to make it 40-15 and then finishes the game off with his 107th ace of the match. We're at 63-64.

Game 128
The players have taken a short break - no sign of bananas for Isner just yet - and Mahut prepares to serve the eight millionth time. Well, ok, maybe a slight exaggeration. But only slight. Isner makes it 30-0 with his 102nd ace and then takes it to 40-0 with another good serve. A second serve is snapped up by Isner to make it 40-15 but ace number 103 makes 64-64.

Game 129
We've edged past the ten and a half hour point as we see the longest rally of the day on the first point - before Isner claims it and makes it 15-0. Mahut makes it 15-15 and looks to take advantage when Isner needs a second serve - but it's a good one and Isner makes it 30-15. Ace number 108 from Isner makes it 40-15 and another good serve closes the game out. 64-65.

Game 130
Isner starts the game by grabbing a point from Mahut's serve and - with the way this match has been so ridiculously close throughout - even getting a point feels as dramatic as match point in a normal game! Isner misses a chance to make it 0-30 and Mahut takes it to 30-15 with a good serve before acrobatically leaping to smash a shot to make it 40-15. Are these two even human? A delicate sliced shot wraps up the game for Mahut. 65-65.

Game 131
Isner opens strongly, immediately opening a 30-0 lead but Mahut pulls it back to 30-15 with a fabulous cross court shot that wouldn't have looked out of place on an Andre Agassi showreel. Isner, however, does his Goran Ivanisevic impression and hits ace 109 to make it 40-15. Then wraps up the game to make it 65-66.

Game 132
I have a terrible sense of deja vu as we begin game 132 - surely we've been in this position before? Mahut still serving strongly makes it 15-0, makes it 30-0 on a second serve, 40-0 with another strong serve before authoritatively shutting Isner out to make it 66-66. If 666 is the number of the Beast, 66-66 is surely even more potent?

Game 133
Mahut continues to be able to make more of the Isner serve than Isner makes of his, snatching a point at 15-15 but Isner makes it 30-15 and then powers a huge forehand down the line to make it 40-15. Ace number 110 makes it 66-67 and the umpire seems to almost sigh as he announces the score...

Game 134
The longest match in tennis history continues to roll on and Mahut seems as determined as Isner not to go down in history as the person who lost the longest tennis match in history. Isner seems reluctant to put too much energy into breaking Mahut and Mahut makes it 67-67 with some ease.

Game 135
Almost eleven hours and Isner seems to have saved energy for his own game; ace number 111makes it 30-0 and a brilliant cross court shot to the far corner makes it 40-0. Mahut can do little with the next serve and it's a reasonably quick game for Isner. 67-68.

Game 136
It is quite curious watching this - something that has never happened before and will (in all likelihood) never happen again. The trouble is, you can't really say 'where were you when the Isner-Mahut match was played?' because the answer might end up being 'For most of it I was in holiday for two weeks in Spain but I came back to watch the end...'. The fifth set is now over eight hours and Mahut makes it 68-68.

Game 137
Is the moment Isner wilts? Isner loses the first two points on his serve. We're at 0-30 and an electric buzz circulates the court. Ace number 112 from Isner makes it 15-30 to cheers from the crowd and another powerful serve evens it out at 30-30. Isner makes a good decision to leave a shot and makes it 40-30 and then makes it 68-69.

Game 138
The players come back from a break and the traditional patterns resumes with Mahut opening a 15-0 lead. But Isner gets a point to make it 15-15 and Mahut nets to make it 15-30 before Isner gets a break - and match - point at 30-40. Could it be about to end??? Yes it does!

John Isner wins the final set 70-68 - unbelievable! Hard to believe this match has actually finished - but both of these players are going down in history. Surely this is a once in a lifetime opportunity - maybe a once ever opportunity?

The final set was 491 minutes long. 491 minutes! The clock stopped on the match at 11 hours and 5 minutes...

Tim Henman and Ann Jones are on court, along with representatives of Wimbledon to present both players, and the umpire, with a memento of their achievement. Both players are exhausted. Mahut, obviously, disappointed.

Isner says he feels "A little bit tired." and that "it was an honour to share the court with Nicolas Mahut."

Mahut gets a standing ovation from the crowd and looks as if the emotion of the moment is about to overcome him. He says "at the moment it's really painful" but the "crowd were wonderful" and Isner is "a champion."

An amazing, unbelievable game.

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