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Tied At 59, Isner-Mahut Tennis Match Isn't Over Yet

John Isner, of the United States, above, smiles as Nicolas Mahut, of France, lies on the court during their epic men's singles match at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships at Wimbledon on Wednesday. Play was suspended for bad light with scores tied at 59-all in the 5th set. (AP)
John Isner, of the United States, above, smiles as Nicolas Mahut, of France, lies on the court during their epic men's singles match at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships at Wimbledon on Wednesday. Play was suspended for bad light with scores tied at 59-all in the 5th set. (AP)

No, it's not the score of a small college basketball game headed into overtime, it's a tennis match.  At Wimbledon. On grass.

American John Isner battles Frenchman Nicolas Mahut on Thursday as they hope to conclude their fifth set at Wimbledon.

This summer, Isner had been scheduled to be the Boston Lobsters', the area's World TeamTennis pro franchise, second-fiddle to fellow American James Blake.  If this match ever concludes, Isner may suit up this summer as the Lobsters' main attraction.

Tuesday, June 22, probably began like any other match day at Wimbledon for Isner and Mahut.  They began the match at 2:04 p.m. in the 80-degree afternoon heat.  At 3 p.m. London time Thursday, they'll still be playing the same match.

The two played for almost three hours Tuesday, usually long enough to encompass an entire match.  Isner took the first set 6-4, Mahut took the next two 6-3, 7-6 (7), and Isner rallied to win the fourth set 7-6 (3) before the umpire suspended the match due to darkness.

The real fireworks, of course, happened Wednesday in the fifth set.  In one of the quaint English traditions that surely ranks just below coronations and fish and chips but above lukewarm beer, there is no tie-breaker in the fifth set at Wimbledon.  It's fitting, perhaps, that in the sport's most traditional tournament, Isner and Mahut are playing old-school: win by two.

Players must win by two games, so matches just keep going. And going. And going.

The match has already lasted an incredible 10 hours and may go on for hours more.  It's already the longest match in tennis history.  In fact, the still un-concluded fifth set would qualify as the longest match ever.  These guys ate their Wheaties.

Fans around the world will tune in to see the next installment of this epic match.  Previously a small fish in a big pond, Isner might become... a big lobster... in a small pond?

This program aired on June 24, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

Jeremy Bernfeld Producer
Jeremy Bernfeld was formerly a producer for WBUR.

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