Friday, June 25, 2010

Washington Post column -- "John Isner and Nicolas Mahut: Hitting themselves into history"

The best moments in sports are almost always those we least expect: The U.S. hockey team stunning the Soviet Union in the Lake Placid Olympics 30 years ago; Boris Becker winning Wimbledon 25 years ago when he was too young -- 17 -- to claim the world's most important tennis title; Tom Watson coming within inches of winning the British Open when he was too old -- 59 -- to compete for a major golf championship.

And then there are those moments that involve athletes most of us have never heard of and may never hear of again; moments that come out of nowhere and hold us spellbound. That's what John Isner and Nicolas Mahut did the past three days. They began a routine first-round match at Wimbledon on Tuesday, a long way -- literally and figuratively -- from historic Centre Court. They were sent out to play on Court 18, which is tucked into a corner of the Wimbledon grounds and has seats for a mere 782 people.

When they finally shook hands at the net on Thursday after playing five sets and 183 games -- the last 138 of them in the final set -- millions of people around the world were watching and wondering when one of them would finally crack or simply collapse. To put what these two men did into perspective, consider: Before this epic match, the longest fifth set in the history of Grand Slam tennis lasted 48 games -- 90 games fewer than Isner and Mahut played. The longest match in Grand Slam tennis history before this one lasted six hours and 33 minutes. The last set between Isner and Mahut took eight hours and 11 minutes.

Click here for the rest of the column: Hitting themselves into history


ARCstats said...

I'm not proud of this opinion, but,,, this entire fiasco does not pass the smell test. At some point in the future, when both these guys are gone from the pro circuit, it will come out that the outcome was staged by these two unknowns for instant sizzle, exposure, and record breaking perfomances (you know, 21st century mentality). From the two tie breakers in the 3rd & 4th sets to set the stage for the marathon 5th set, I'm not buying it as being legit. Take away the first 12 games of set 5 and you're asking me to believe that these guys played 126 games without someone winning two in a row???? I'm not a math major, but assuming these fellas have similar tennis levels (and they must for this to happen), the odds say this can't occur without some help. Try flipping a coin 126 times and see how many times the result duplicates.

I believe this result was orchestrated between the players prior to the match, and at some point - 5 months, 5 years, or 50 years from now, it will all come out as a total hoax.

Paul Nikkel said...

ARCstats it is pretty clear that you are not a math major without you telling us. The outcome of a tennis game is not like flipping a coin - the player serving has a huge advantage. Try putting a small piece of tape on one side of a coin and then flip it and see what happens. During the match there were over 200 aces, split almost evenly between the two players. While the length of the match was incredible, to say that the fix was on is even more incredible.

Anonymous said...

ARC - There is absolutely no way that was 'staged.' There wasn't a break of serve since the 2nd set, and once these guys got tired there was no way to have a break of serve unless or until double faults and other miscues caused it to happen. Isner, while you don't know him, is not a nobody and will be a top 10 player in the next year or two.

ScottinMD said...

Good for Isner. I saw him play Rodick in Pam Shriver's charity event in Baltimore a few years ago. Very funny and engaging guy.

Anonymous said...


On a different note, did you catch the post game Nats show after Stausburg's game. Both Knight and Dibble were trying to get their points accrooss (on how Stausburg needs to do this or that) and they started a heated agrument, was actualy entertaining because those post shows can be so boring. I thought Dibble was more of a D though, do these guys normally go at it, if so a post show worth watching.

Ed O. said...

I felt bad for Isner getting demolished in the 2nd round, but what else could we have expected? I'm reminded of what Rene Russo said to Kevin Costner at the end of "Tin Cup", after he made a 12 on 18 in the US Open (holing out from about 270 for the 12). She said "in 5 years nobody will remember who won or who lost the open, but they'll remember that 12. It's immortal"

That's what these guys are. Immortal. It boggles the mind what they did. Not only will this probably never happen again, it won't even be close to happening. Even if either of these guys ends up winning even a couple majors, THIS is now the first or second line of their obituary.

Anonymous said...

Tennis = yaaaaaaawwwwwnnnnn. Sorry.

Why haven't either of these guys learned how to return a serve?

Don't like the shootout in soccer? This is what you will get.

Rich, Denver