Special Sub-Topic: Isner/Mahut: Greatest Match Ever!
|Going into the 2010 Wimbledon Championships, Isner and Mahut had taken very different career paths. Isner's successful play in 2010 had actually earned him a low seeding at the tournament. How did Mahut get into Wimbledon?|
He won three difficult matches in the qualifying tournament. To get into any Grand Slam tournament, players must either be ranked highly enough to qualify automatically, win three matches in pre-tournament qualifying rounds, or earn a wild card into the draw. Wild cards are usually given to strong, popular players whose rankings had dropped due to injury, or to players that will earn popular support in the home country. Mahut was one of 16 players to qualify into the Wimbledon draw after facing tough competition in the early rounds. He beat Canadian Frank Dancevic in the first round before defeating British hope Alex Bogdanovic 24-22 in the third decisive set. In the final rounds, he topped Austria's Stefan Koubek in five sets after trailing two sets to love.
Isner had almost no grass court experience in his career, but his top 20 ranking justified a seeding at the tournament. Wimbledon is the only Grand Slam tournament that seeds players not just by their Tour rankings, but also by past grass court successes. That's why, in 2010, Roger Federer was the first seed even though he was ranked second in the world to Rafael Nadal.
|On June 22, 2010, Isner and Mahut took to the court in an unanticipated first round clash. Barely any attention was paid to them, partly because they were scheduled to play where?|
Court 18. Court 18 is one of the outer courts at the All-England Club, and even though it's better than the small show courts traditionally reserved for doubles or juniors matches, the accommodations are nothing like those found on Centre Court or Court 1. One major detriment to the match's location was that an automatic line-calling system ("Hawkeye" to tennis fans) was not present on the outer Wimbledon courts. That meant that, as the match progressed, players were forced to abide with the umpire's line calls and couldn't issue a challenge. There were no McEnroe-level temper tantrums, but questionable calls arose on both sides, as they will in any important match.
After the epic Wimbledon final between Federer and Nadal in 2008, the All-England Club installed a roof over Centre Court to prevent such rain delays from occurring again. In the first two years of competition, the roof was fairly useless, because rain mysteriously vanished from the typically-wet grounds in June. In a first round match between Olivier Rochus and Novak Djokovic in 2010, their match was moved to Centre after sundown to allow them to finish in a lighted arena. No such arrangements could be made for Isner and Mahut, stranded on lonely Court 18.
|The first four sets of the Isner-Mahut match were fairly predictable. In fact, the first two sets lasted about an hour combined. What were the scores of the first four sets (Here's a hint: both players converted exactly one break point opportunity and held serve the rest of the way.)?|
6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6. A break point opportunity is any point on which the receiving player has the opportunity to win a game and "break serve". They are very significant at the pro tennis level and especially on the Men's Tour at Wimbledon, where very quick courts allow players with fast serves to succeed. Isner was noted before Wimbledon for having a strong serve and was therefore expected to do well at Wimbledon; however, his somewhat weak return game lengthened the match. The American broke serve once in the first set, and Mahut responded by earning a break in the second. The third and fourth sets featured no breaks of serve (although Isner lost several break point chances), and were decided by seven-point tiebreakers, which the players split.
|After the first four sets of the match, the sun set, and Isner and Mahut left Wimbledon, because no light made it impossible for them to play any longer. This result wasn't surprising for a match that went on late in the afternoon. When the players resumed their match on Wednesday, they returned to the court and played out the fifth set. Neither expected the match to last very long. Actually, Isner had planned on doing what that afternoon after he finished the fifth set?|
Playing his first round doubles match. Isner was set in the doubles draw with American compatriot and friend Sam Querrey. The team had had moderate doubles success in the past and were dangerous title threats at Wimbledon. The doubles match, of course, never happened, because Isner and Mahut played the entire day. Querrey left to go practice on his own, having thought that he would earn a warm-up with his doubles match that day. When he returned to the club, his doubles partner was still on the court.
The World Cup was in full swing during the match, and, as luck would have it, the United States was playing a group match to stay in contention during Isner's fifth set. Wimbledon had banned TVs showing soccer from the grounds, which was irritating to players and staff. Commentators swarmed on to the Isner match once the fifth set got into double digits, but Brad Gilbert and Patrick McEnroe were notably upset that they couldn't find out how the American players were doing.
|Games mounted as neither Mahut nor Isner could manage to break through the other's mountainous first serve and win the match. What comically happened at 47-47 in the fifth set?|
The scoreboard broke. Wimbledon was never prepared to deal with a match that made it past 20-20 in the fifth set, so the marathon that was beginning to unfold became problematic. Eventually, the technology was defeated by the tennis players' persistence (commentators jokingly noted that the only one who had lost on June 23 was the scoreboard), and it began smoking. The umpire kept track of the score anyway, and when the match resumed on Thursday, the scoreboard had been repaired. Spare a thought for poor Mohamed Lahyani, the Swedish official who came on court with the two players expecting a normal first round match, and was then engrossed by the drama that unfolded. He never got out of his chair to go to the bathroom, even though he sat there for hours on end. Around dusk on the second day of the match, he offered Isner and Mahut an opportunity to go to the bathroom, and they accepted, walking off the court together.
|Before Isner won the match 70-68 in the fifth, how many missed match point opportunities (one point away from winning) did each player have (remember that Mahut was serving to stay in the match every game.)?|
Isner failed to convert 4 match points; Mahut had none. Mahut played the entire fifth set from a negative position, because Isner served the first game. That meant that every time the Frenchman served, he was four points away from elimination. The amazing thing was that he successfully served to stay in the match 64 times in a row. The pressure also meant that Mahut couldn't earn match points on Isner's serve, because the score was always tied when Isner was serving. Mahut would have to break the American, then hold one more time in order to prevail.
Isner, on the other hand, had a couple of match point opportunities. When Mahut served at 9-10 in the fifth, he saved the set with a clutch ace. Forty-six games later, Isner led 15-40 on the Mahut serve. However, an aggressive point with a winner and an unreturned serve pulled Mahut back to deuce, and he converted for 33-33. Finally, one game before play was suspended for a second day, Isner had a fourth match point at 58-59. Ace. Soon it was 59-59. Mahut had a couple of break points on Isner's serve, but failed to convert them after similar circumstances.
|Play was unbelievably suspended on June 23, 2010, more than seven hours after it had begun. By this point, Wimbledon and much of the sporting world was in awe of the men's persistence and achievement. The match resumed the next day, on the same court, and the men continued to hold serve easily. Finally, Isner reached match point with Mahut serving 68-69 in the final set. How did he finally clinch the match?|
Isner hit a backhand down the line to pass Mahut at the net. Here are the match dynamics. It began on June 22 and was postponed about three hours later. Isner and Mahut came back to Wimbledon the next afternoon. After 3-1/2 hours, they broke the record for the longest tennis match in history. They played another 3-1/2 hours before it was again postponed, making the match time exactly 10 hours. They came back for a third day on June 24. Neither player had difficulty on serve until, serving at 68-69, 15-15, Mahut missed a drop shot. Then, Isner hit a terrific forehand passing shot to bring up match point. Mahut served and approached the net again. Isner hit a backhand that Mahut could only watch sail past him. Game, set, and match. Interestingly, the umpire mixed up the tiebreak sets when announcing the match's final score.
|After the epic match, Isner set an all-time record for most aces in a match with 113. Immediately after Wimbledon 2010 was over, who was in second place for that same statistic?|
Nicolas Mahut. It was in fact Isner's opponent in the match. Before the epic first round encounter, the record for most aces had been held by Croatian giant Ivo Karlovic, who served 78 aces when he lost to Radek Stepanek in a Davis Cup match in 2009. Isner crushed the record, hitting 113 serves that Mahut couldn't get his racquet on. The Frenchman had his way too, though. He broke the century mark as well, hitting 103 bombs. As play wore on the second day of the match, Isner's serve declined as he grew fatigued, and Mahut closed in on the tall player's ace count. The two players combined for well over 400 unreturned serves.
The match broke several other records: of course the longest match (in games and duration), longest set, consecutive service games held, and most points scored in a tennis match (which, in a cruel twist of fate, was won by Mahut's 502 points, over Isner's 478). Both players hit more than 240 winners with a low unforced error count. Out of 491 points that Isner served, he double-faulted just 10 times. The previous record for longest match was held by Arnaud Clement and Fabrice Santoro, two Frenchman who played for 6.5 hours at the 2004 French Open.
|How did the All-England Club honor Isner and Mahut after their epic match on June 24, 2010?|
The players received crystal bowls and champagne flutes as a present. It was heartbreaking to see Mahut's despair after losing the match to Isner, but even sadder when the Wimbledon officials kept the players on court in an impromptu ceremony to give them their present. After the gifts were presented, the umpire and the players were marched over to the scoreboard for a picture of the unbelievable scoreline. Mahut bore his sadness like a champion, and Isner was a perfect gentleman in his victory.
The umpire of the match, Lahyani, was a veteran of the tour. He was the one who umpired Federer's shocking upset over Pete Sampras at Wimbledon in 2001, which would usher in the Swiss' successes. He also umpired the upset of the tournament, when Czech player Tomas Berdych beat Federer in the quarterfinals.
|Mahut returned to France after his loss at the 2010 Wimbledon Championships. What happened to Isner at the rest of the tournament?|
He lost badly in the next round. Isner's second round opponent was Dutch player Thiemo de Bakker, who had come through a marathon of his own, winning 16-14 in the fifth set of his first round match. Still, Isner had played seven hours more, and it showed. The American received no day off and was forced to withdraw from his doubles match with a blister. He was broken in the very first game against de Bakker, failed to win a game until the second set, and lost 6-0, 6-3, 6-2. After breaking the record for most aces in a match, Isner didn't hit a single ace in his second round match.
Mahut made his return to the tour at the grass-court tournament in Newport, Rhode Island, during which he donated souvenirs of his match to the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Isner returned to the tour at the Atlanta tournament, where he reached the final near his home town. As a last reward to the players, the Isner-Mahut match won Best Record-Breaking Performance at the 2010 ESPY Awards, beating record-breakers like Federer and Usain Bolt.
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