What Is The Longest Tennis Match In History?

One fascinating part about some sports is that there isn’t necessarily a guarantee that they will end, especially if they have an overtime system.

In football, two highly evenly matched teams can have a penalty shootout that could theoretically go on forever, baseball innings can only end when three people are declared out, and tennis has various tie break systems that mean matches can continue for much longer than one may expect.

The 2008 Wimbledon Final, one of the greatest matches ever played on grass, took nearly five hours to complete as two of the greatest players in the world matched each other point for point until Nadal, famously less good on grass than on his preferred clay, shocked the world.

That was, until 2019, the longest singles final in the history of Wimbledon, but the longest match ever played at Wimbledon, or indeed anywhere else, doubled it in length and took place in a first-round match two years later.

During the first round proper, promising 23rd seed John Isner (ranked 19th in the world at the time) played Nicholas Mahut (ranked 148th) in a match that whilst seemingly lopsided on paper, had produced surprises before, as Mr Mahut had beaten Mr Isner in a 2008 ATP 500 event in London.

The first four sets of the Wimbledon match were relatively uneventful, with Mr Isner and Mr Mahut clearly splitting the first two sets. The second two were won in tiebreakers, leaving it all in the hands of a deciding fifth set to be played the next day.

This set was an intense sight to behold, consisting of 138 games by itself, by far the largest number of games there has been and will ever be.

The reason for this is that before 2019, the fifth set did not have a tiebreaker at Wimbledon; you had to win two clear games to win the match.

The first chance for Mr Isner to win the game came when he was winning 9-10 on Mr Mahut’s serve, but the French qualifier held his nerve and continued to hold it through the 32-33 match point, and the dramatic last game played at 58-59 before darkness fell on 23rd June.

The game lasted so long the scoreboard broke, and spectators were asked to add 50 to the score.

The final games were incredibly dramatic as well. Mr Mahut nearly broke serve, going up 0-30, but Mr Isner rallied to win four straight points and hold serve. Mr Mahut then nearly went up 30-15 on the next game with an incredibly daring drop shot but hit the net.

After this, an incredible inside-out forehand that just passed Mr Mahut and landed in, Mr Isner finally converted his fifth match point and won 70-68 in a match that lasted 11 hours and 5 minutes, by far the longest in tennis history.

Sadly Isner’s very next match was a quick defeat to Thiemo de Bakker that was at the time the shortest Wimbledon match in history, at just 74 minutes.

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