For one day in June, soccer and tennis were the most popular sports in the United States.
The big event for USA sports fans heading into June 23 was, as expected, the USA vs. Algeria World Cup match. Soccer fans around the country gathered in sports bars and other establishments in order to watch Team USA’s “win and we’re in” match. What these fans got was an excruciating nail biter of a soccer match that was without a goal for 90+ minutes. Even worse for American soccer fans, England had won its match, meaning a draw would knock the United States out of the 2010 FIFA World Cup before the elimination around even began.
And then it happened. New American hero Landon Donovan buried one of the most important goals in USA World Cup history, the Americans defeated Algeria 1-0 and Team USA went from being eliminated from the World Cup to winning the group play round for the first time since 1930. Almost immediately after the Landon Donovan game winning goal, USA fans frolicked to their Twitter, Facebook and other social networking accounts. Within minutes of the goal, Landon Donovan, World Cup and USA were all top trends on Twitter. Soccer was the most talked-about and most beloved sport in all of the United States.
Funny thing about soccer in this country, though. Every time it looks like soccer will finally break through, something happens to knock the sport back down the “things American sports fans find important” ladder. What possibly could steal Team USA’s and soccer’s spotlight on June 23? A huge Major League Baseball trade? Team changing NFL injury? LeBron James signing a lifetime contract with a Russian basketball league?
A tennis match. A Wimbledon tennis match between two guys that, unless you’re a big tennis fan, you’ve never heard of; two names you’ll never forget if you watched the June 23 match set.
American John Isner started his June 23 match against Frenchman Nicolas Mahut where the two players left off the previous day. Their first round match was postponed on Tuesday due to darkness. No biggie, right? Just finish things off on Wednesday afternoon.
Isner and Mahut had other plans. Wimbledon rules dictate that the fifth tiebreaker-less set can only end when a player wins six games and has at least a two-game advantage over his opponent. That has yet to happen, as Isner and Mahut played into the afternoon, evening and night of June 23 without either being able to obtain the necessary two game lead. Seven hours and six minutes into the fifth set, Isner and Mahut were tied at 59 (Fifty. Nine.) games apiece and the match was again called due to darkness. As you would expect, the fifth set of the match has gone longer than the previously longest match in tennis history. In total, Isner and Mahut ended June 23 having faced each other for ten hours.
The historic match quickly eclipsed all World Cup and Landon Donovan references on Twitter, as soccer fans, tennis fans, sports and people saying to friends and themselves “What is going on at Wimbledon? 55-55? Eight hours? That can’t be right” all found a television set or computer in order to watch the historic Isner-Mahut Wimbledon showdown.
The outcome of Isner vs. Mahut really only matters if one of these exhausted athletes goes on to win Wimbledon. We’ll never forget screaming our heads off after Landon Donovan’s game winning goal sent USA Soccer to the next round of the World Cup. If Team USA doesn’t go on to win the World Cup, though. Donovan’s heroics and the Isner vs. Mahut marathon will only live on in our minds and the record books.
For one day, a handful of hours on June 23, 2010, tennis and soccer were co-kings of the American sports world.
Who misses the NFL, anyway?
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