The Wimbledon tennis tournament in London has become one of epic proportions in more ways than one. The Los Angeles Times reports that American John Isner defeated Frenchman Nicolas Mahut in five sets, 6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 70-68. Yes, that’s 70-68 in the final set. In 2010, new scoring rules have allowed for tiebreakers in every set except for the last set of the match, which would be the third set in women’s and the fifth set in men’s. Hence the marathon match fought between Isner and Mahut.
The vital stats of the match include a time of 11 hours and five minutes, surpassing the previous time record by over five hours. Isner had 112 aces to Mahut’s 103. The final set was played for 138 games, which is a minimum of four points. Over 550 points would have to be scored in the final set alone.
Mammoth of a Man
Not only was the match out of proportion from normal tennis, but the winner of the match is also larger than life. The six-foot, nine-inch John Isner, who graduated from the University of Georgia in 2007, went out a winner his senior year as an NCAA champion.
He turned pro in June of 2007, and is now ranked 19th in the world and has advanced as far as the fourth round of the Australian Open in 2010. His next match at Wimbledon is against Dutch player Thiemo De Bakker, ranked 49th on the ATP Tour.
Changes to Wimbledon
Should the last set be a huge problem, the ATP might decide to reinstitute the tiebreaker scoring system for Grand Slam tournaments. A tiebreaker system is in place for sets that end in a 6-6 tie, and then there is a tiebreak rule to determine who wins 7-6. To make things more exciting, the tennis scoring rules were changed so as to make the sport more appealing, according to Business Week. Currently, the U.S. Open is the only Grand Slam that utilizes a tiebreaker in the final set.
Perhaps the ATP should look at the matches this year to see if they last longer without a tiebreaker system for the last set. If it’s true that absurdly long duels like Isner versus Mahut continue, then a rules change will be sure to follow.
But, for now, we can celebrate the tenacity of two of the sport’s rising stars. Isner excelled in college, and will be someone to reckon with on the tour should he consistently get better, even though his stature is not typical for a tennis player.
Do we really want to see Rafael Nadal go 10 hours against Roger Federer in the finals of a Grand Slam? Television sponsors will have trouble with so many repeat commercials. I would imagine that both Isner and Mahut would square off in an Energizer commercial sometime soon.
The Los Angeles Times, the Wimbledon website, Business Week, and the ATP website all contributed information for this article.