By Peter Nez
“I have almost no words anymore watching this,” defending singles champion Roger Federer said about the Isner-Mahut match on court 18. “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.”
I don’t think I have ever heard a broadcasting team, with the likes of zany Brad Gilbert, and Mr. Hello! Patrick McEnroe, scramble for words harder than they did today on day three of Wimbledon to describe the match etched in history between Frenchman Nicolas Mahut, wiry, goofy faced, and grass savvy, against the giant from the south, American Bulldog John Isner. A match that just wouldn’t end, and as I am writing this is going into the eighth hour, tied 30-30 in the fifth set at 41-42 in favor of the 6’9” Isner. This has ceased to be an epic, a battle, a clash of warriors, a feud between unwavering wills, it has now become, as it is tied now, with Mahut holding at 42-42 in the fifth set, a ridiculous labyrinth of surreal proportions bordering on an overdone farce; the groundhog day of tennis, where the clock moves forward, and scoreboards shift numerical value, but the players are locked in psychological time warfare with physical impediments all brushed aside. These guys aren’t playing for a spot in the third round anymore, but for immortality.
Their play was suspended due to darkness the day before, after the fourth set, but nobody could’ve anticipated this… play suspended yet again at 59-all in the fifth, with much trepidation on both players parts (maybe more so with Isner, who looked like he wanted to continue), after 7 hours and 6 minutes of play in the fifth set alone on day three. Mahut first addressed the fading light issue, but Isner, who looked ready to collapse a few times, sluggishly agreed and the longest match in tennis history has a possibility of going even longer. “This will never happen again,” Isner said in his post-postponement interview. I think it’s safe to say that truer words were never spoken.
Shattering every known record in Wimbledon and tennis history combined, the two immortals are due first on court 18 Thursday. What is going to be the final score? What will the engraved stats procure at the end of it all? Who will end up winning? Is there actually a winner and a loser in a match like this? A match unlike any match in sports history; a contest that defies categorization. Well, you know where I’ll be first thing in the morning. The question is will I have to call in sick for work?