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The Match

Story ID:6176
Written by:Michael Timothy Smith (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Story
Location:Wimbledon England
Year:2010
Person:John Isner - Nicolas Mahut
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In 2010, the 124th tennis championships at Wimbledon was won by Rafael Nadal of
Spain in straight sets over Tomas Berdvch of the Czech Republic. Nadal is a worthy champion
and deserves to be honored for his win, but the real accolades go to 23rd seed John Isner
of the United States and the 148th world ranked, Nicolas Mahut of France. Ranked low,
they were assigned court 18, which is off to the side, far from the lighted center court,
where the top seeded players competed.

Their match began on Tuesday, June 22nd. Tied at two sets, the game was
called because of darkness. Isner won the first set 6-3. Mahut took control and won the
next two 3-6 and 6-7. Isner tied it up with a 7-6 win, before the game was called..

On Wednesday, the two men faced each other for the final set. The day wore on;
the scores climbed; and people took notice. At 3:03 PM, after three hours and forty
minutes of play, the score was tied 50-50.

The scoreboard quit.

The day before, they completed the four sets in about three hours. On day two,
they staggered as they surpassed the six hour mark. Line judges were refreshed. Teams
of ball boys and girls where changed five times.

Word spread. History was being made. Before long, everyone inside the All
England Club was entranced. On Henman Hill, crowds swarmed around the big screen
to watch. From the roof-top garden, overlooking court 18, tennis’ elite (John McEnroe,
Tim Henman and Gael Monfils) looked on with disbelief.

Tied at 59-59, the line judge called the game because of darkness for the second
day in a row, but not before the two men shattered just about every record imaginable:
points, aces, match points, and games. Isner no longer had skin on his small toes. The crowd
began to chant, “Keep playing!” or “Center Court” where there were lights, but the game was
stopped anyway.

On day three, Isner and Mahut, sore and tired, limped to the court and faced
each other. The top players were at the center courts, but the attention was on court 18.
Even the Queen of England was in attendance for this historic match. This was Isner and
Mahut’s day. They fought for this moment and deserved it. They didn’t disappoint the throngs
of people watching.

For several more hours the two men continued battle. The score climbed and the fans
watched with disbelief. After more than eleven hours of play, Isner put the match away, winning
the final set 70-68 and made history.

The next day, Isner lost his match in straight sets. There is no shame. He and Mahut are
champions. Their names will be in record books for many years as the gladiators of tennis. They
proved to the world, the old saying, “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s how you play the
game that counts.” is true.

Michael T. Smith