What other adjectives can I use that haven’t already been taken? Epic. Outstanding. Ridiculous.
Sure other players won today including Roger Federer who was tested again by qualifier Ilija Bozoljac while Venus Williams took out red hot Ekaterina Makarova, but it was a match that ended yesterday and that also ended tonight at 59-59 all in the final set with no winner in sight that has become not only the tennis match of the tournament, not only the match of the year, but one for all time. But even if a winner finally emerges (or collapses) tomorrow, will it even matter considering the physical and mental toll it could cost him the rest of the season?
The first round match between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut today entered the history books on all levels of the sport: longest fifth set both at Wimbledon and in the Open Era, longest ever match at Wimbledon or at any other Grand Slam, most games ever played in a match in the Open Era, most aces ever served in a match and probably a few more I can’t dig up. And if Taylor Dent hadn’t hit a 149 mph ace in his losing effort to Novak Djokovic today, John Isner would have had the fastest serve in Wimbledon history.
But does any of that matter to who loses tomorrow? Unless, of course, both players figure out way to drag it out into a fourth day. John Isner had four match points separated by several hours apiece but still couldn’t find a way to hit one more winner. And although one can marvel at the tremendous serving efforts from both players, you have to think that if Lleyton Hewitt or Rafael Nadal were involved in this one, it would have ended early today. I don’t mean to take anything away from the superhuman effort from both players, but shouldn’t one of them by now have tried something, anything, to gain the upper hand? And what will be the strategy tomorrow for both players, given that both will be mentally and physically fried from today? One could give a slight edge to Isner only because Mahut has had to serve from behind the entire set, but the way Mahut bounced around and even dived on the court to save points today suggests he could be the fresher of the two tomorrow.
So what happens to whoever wins this match aside from a second round encounter with Thiemo de Bakker which I’m sure will be pushed back to Friday. If Mahut wins, he’ll become a hero in France which surely needs one after its World Cup team mutiny debacle. If Isner wins, he’ll become a household name among casual sports fans and, because he’s American, probably earn several endorsement deals out of it. But as John McEnroe correctly said after the match, the toll taken by both men will most likely cause them to lose early at Wimbledon and could keep them out of contention for any other title the rest of the year. One only has to look at the Djokovic/Nadal marathon at Madrid last year that Nadal won but which his body is just now finally recovering from as proof of that.
Who knows if this match will bring up calls for the tiebreaker to be introduced for all Grand Slams, but one thing is for sure, this match has lifted tennis into the radar of all sports fans, and that’s saying something on a day where Landon Donovan’s winning goal against Algeria probably boosted interest in soccer in the U.S. by a 100 percent. It’s a shame someone has to lose tomorrow, but let’s hope someone does just for the sake of both player’s bodies. But because of both men’s efforts, including showing fine sportsmanship throughout, it’s surely agreed that tennis, as a sport, was the real winner today.