When John Isner finally won the longest match in tennis history, he collapsed on the Wimbledon grass and then summoned one last burst of energy, springing to his feet to applaud along with the crowd.
The American hit a backhand winner to win the last of the match’s 980 points, and he took the fifth set Thursday against Nicolas Mahut, 70-68.
The first-round match took 11 hours, 5 minutes over three days, lasting so long it was suspended because of darkness – two nights in a row. Play resumed Thursday at 59-all and continued for more than an hour before Isner won 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (3), 70-68.
The American finished with 112 aces, and Mahut had 103, with both totals eclipsing the previous high of 78. There were only three service breaks in the match, the last coming on the final point.
American John Isner and Frenchman Nicolas Mahut prepare to begin the third day of their first round match at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on Thursday in London.
Hamish Blair/Getty ImagesAmerican John Isner and Frenchman Nicolas Mahut prepare to begin the third day of their first round match at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on Thursday in London.
With Mahut serving at 68-69, Isner hit a forehand winner for the first break-point chance of the day. Then he cracked the backhand winner for the victory – only the third service break of the match, and the only one in the fifth set, which lasted 8 hours, 11 minutes.
The finish attracted an overflow crowd on cozy Court 18.
Isner won a match that was by far the longest in the sport’s history in terms of games or time. The previous longest match took 6 hours, 33 minutes at the 2004 French Open.
Four times on Wednesday, Isner was one point from victory, but Mahut saved each match point.
The crowd roared when the players walked on the court Thursday, and Isner smiled and waved. When the action resumed, both players continued to dominate with their serves. Mahut held at love five times.
But in the final game, the Frenchman committed an unforced error and netted a drop shot on consecutive points, opening the door for Isner.
Queen Visits Wimbledon
The end of the marathon match came on the day Queen Elizabeth II arrived at Wimbledon for her first visit to the All England Club since 1977. She sat in the Royal Box for the start of the match between Briton Andy Murray and Jarkko Nieminen of Finland.
The queen took her seat in the front row shortly before Murray and Nieminen walked onto Centre Court. They turned toward her and simultaneously bowed as the crowd roared.
Murray, seeded fourth, is trying to become the first British player to win Wimbledon since the queen watched Virginia Wade win the women’s final 33 years ago.
The queen emerged from a car near the club’s practice courts an hour before the day’s first matches, and walked toward Centre Court along a walkway lined with spectators. When she reached the members’ lawn, she met several players, including Roger Federer, Venus and Serena Williams and Andy Roddick, and former Wimbledon champions Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King.
Serena Williams greeted the queen with the curtsy she had been practicing. Roddick and Federer bowed.
Spectators cheered as the queen then walked across a bridge to the clubhouse for lunch.
Aside from the astounding marathon match, there were no big surprises on day 3 of the tournament. Federer endured some tense moments before beating qualifier Ilija Bozoljac, 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-6 (5), and three-time Wimbledon runner-up Roddick rallied past Michael Llodra 4-6, 6-4, 6-1, 7-6 (2).
Five-time champion Williams lost only 11 points on her serve and beat Ekaterina Makarova 6-0, 6-4. Belgians Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters, both back at the All England Club after coming out of retirement, won and remained on course for a fourth-round meeting.
This program aired on June 24, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.