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