Isner Defeats Mahut In Tennis’ Longest Match, 10 Years On
Editor’s Note: Ten years ago, John Isner and Nicolas Mahut completed the longest match in history in the first round at Wimbledon. As the players remember their battle on social media, ATPTour.com resurfaces its match report from the match’s final day on 24 June 2010.
It lasted over three days, broke a host of tennis record and finally ended with 25-year-old American John Isner hitting a backhand – his 246th winner – down the line to pass Nicolas Mahut of France.
Picking up at 59-59 in the fifth set on its third day, the first-round match on Court 18 at The Championships, which has captivated a global audience, continued on serve with no break point opportunities until 6’10” Isner fell on his back having kept his nerve to complete the longest tennis match on record for a 6-4, 3-6, 6-7(7), 7-6(3), 70-68 victory in 11 hours and five minutes.
Both men firmly have their feet in tennis history.
Exactly 10 years ago, @nicomahut and I got locked in a match that seemingly lasted 10 years. It’s something that I get asked countless times about even to this day, and truthfully don’t enjoy rehashing what we both went through. What started as your standard first round match at a grand slam morphed into a spectacle that even stole headlines from the concurrent World Cup. While technically imperfect in a lot of ways, Nico and I showed the value of never ever giving up while competing during the course of the 3 day event. Prior to the match, I couldn’t tell you one thing about Nico other than I knew he was really good at serve and volleying. Afterwards, I learned that on top of his incredible competitive spirit, Nico is one of the most genuine and kind people I’ve ever come across. I mean that with the utmost sincerity. You won’t find a better guy. The most important take away from this match for me is the inseparable friendship we have formed. We will always be spoken about in the same breath going forward which I find to be very cool. It’s a shame we can’t be at SW19 this year to commemorate our match, but maybe one day we can lock horns on the same side of net in doubles…perhaps say at @wimbledon. What do you say @nicomahut? PS special shoutout to our referee, Mohammed, who never took a bathroom break for 11 hours and 5 minutes.
In an Instagram post commemorating the 10-year-anniversary of the match, Isner wrote: “It’s something that I get asked countless times about even to this day, and truthfully don’t enjoy rehashing what we both went through. What started as your standard first-round match at a Grand Slam morphed into a spectacle that even stole headlines from the concurrent World Cup.
“Afterwards, I learned that on top of his incredible competitive spirit, Nico is one of the most genuine and kind people I’ve ever come across.”
— Nico Mahut (@nmahut) June 22, 2020
There were three service breaks in 183 games, totalling 980 points. There were 168 consecutive service games held between both players until Isner broke in the 183rd and final game of the match. The previous break of serve had been in the second game of the second set when Isner was broken at 0-1.
The fifth set alone lasted eight hours and 11 minutes – longer than any the previous longest-match in tennis history, when Fabrice Santoro beat his French compatriot Arnaud Clement over six hours and 33 minutes in a first-round match at 2004 Roland Garros.
Isner hit 113 aces to 103 for Mahut, there were 490 winners overall – including 244 for Mahut, who picks up a cheque for £11,250. On Wednesday, Isner had missed four match points in the fifth set – one at 10-9, two at 33-32 and one at 59-58.
Upon the completion of the historic match, the All England Club presented the two players and Mohamed Lahyani, a Swedish umpire, with awards on the court to mark their achievement.
In an on-court interview, No. 23 seed Isner said, of his vanquished opponent: “The guy’s an absolute warrior. It stinks someone had to lose. To share this with him was an absolute honour. Maybe we’ll meet again somewhere down the road and it won’t be 70-68.”
Mahut was gracious in defeat, admitting “at this moment I’m just really thankful. It was amazing today.
“John deserved to win. He served unbelievable, he’s a champion. It was really an honour to play the greatest match ever at the greatest place for tennis. It was very long but I think we both enjoyed it.”
Ironically, Isner and Mahut drew one another in the first round in 2011, too. Isner won 7-6(4), 6-2, 7-6(6).