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The new definition of 'endless love'

Longest tennis match EVER not finished yet

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WIMBLEDON -- Even the scoreboard couldn't keep up in John Isner's marathon first-round match with Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon.

The electronic sign keeping track courtside as the points passed and the game totals rose went blank while 23rd-seeded Isner of the United States and French qualifier Mahut played -- and played and played -- the longest match in tennis history, until action was suspended Wednesday because of darkness at 59-59 in the fifth set.

"Nothing like this will ever happen again. Ever," Isner said in a courtside TV interview.

The match already had been suspended because of fading light Tuesday night after the fourth set.

They have been playing each other for a total of exactly 10 hours -- seven hours six minutes in the fifth set alone, enough to break the full-match record of 6:33, set at the 2004 French Open.

Never before in the history of Wimbledon, which first was contested in 1877, had any match -- singles or doubles, men or women -- lasted more than 112 games, a mark set in 1969. Isner and Mahut played more games than that in their fifth set, and still did not determine a victor, although the American came close: He had four match points but Mahut saved each one.

"He's serving fantastic. I'm serving fantastic. That's really all there is to it," Isner said. "I'd like to see the stats and see what the ace count looks like for both of us."

Well, here they are: Isner hit 98 aces, Mahut 95 -- both eclipsing the previous high in a match at any tournament, 78. All the numbers were truly astounding: They played 881 points, 612 in the fifth set. Isner compiled 218 winners, Mahut 217. Isner made only 44 unforced errors, Mahut 37.

And they are not finished. No one has won.

The match will continue, stretching into a third day.

"He's just a champ. We're just fighting like we never did before," Mahut said. "Someone has to win, so we'll come back tomorrow and see who is going to win the match."

At 58-all, more than 6 1/2 hours into Wednesday's action, both players took a bathroom break -- and, frankly, who could blame them? Not much later, shortly after 9 p.m. local time, Mahut and Isner approached the net to discuss with a Grand Slam supervisor, Soeren Friemel, whether to keep going Wednesday.

"I want to play," Mahut said, "but I can't see."

Fans began chanting, "We want more! We want more!" Then they proposed an idea to organizers, screaming in unison, "Centre Court! Centre Court!" -- the only stadium at the All England Club equipped with artificial lights, and therefore the only place play could continue at that hour. When Friemel decided they would stop at that moment and resume today, spectators saluted Isner and Mahut with a standing ovation.

"I have almost no words anymore watching this. It's beyond anything I've ever seen and could imagine. I don't know how their bodies must feel the next day, the next week, the next month. This is incredible tennis," 16-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer said. "As we know, we have no draws in tennis, so there will be a loser. But I guess in this match, both will be winners because this is just absolutely amazing."

Not that anyone will ever remember, because of what happened Wednesday, but for the record, Tuesday's portion of the match went this way: Isner won the first set 6-4, Mahut took the next two 6-3, 7-6 (7), and Isner claimed the fourth 7-6 (3).

That portion lasted 2:54, longer than many entire matches, but these guys were just getting started. The first four sets encompassed a total of 45 games, less than half of the fifth set alone. To put it in some more perspective, the 2009 Wimbledon final between Federer and Andy Roddick was the longest Grand Slam championship match in history, running 77 games in all. Isner and Mahut would scoff at that paltry total.

 

-- The Associated Press

Making a career of it

 

10 hours and counting -- John Isner vs. Nicolas Mahut, 2010 Wimbledon 1R (in progress)

6:33 -- Fabrice Santoro def. Arnaud Clement, 2004 French Open 1R

6:22 -- John McEnroe def. Mats Wilander, 1982 Davis Cup, World Group QF

6:21 -- Boris Becker def. John McEnroe, 1987 Davis Cup, World Group Playoff

6:04 -- Horst Skoff def. Mats Wilander, 1989 Davis Cup, World Group QF

5:59 -- Radek Stepanek def. Ivo Karlovic, 2009 Davis Cup, World Group SF

5:46 -- Arnaud Clement def. Marc Rosset, 2001 Davis Cup, World Group QF

5:45 -- Mehdi Tahiri def. Gilles Muller, 2005 Davis Cup, Europe/Africa Zone 1R Playoff

5:31 -- Alex Corretja def. Hernan Gumy, 1998 French Open 3R

5:28 -- Greg Holmes def. Todd Witsken, 1989 Wimbledon 2R

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 24, 2010 C10

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