6-4, 3-6, 6-7(7/9), 7-6(7/3), 70-68
(6-4 3-6 6-7 7-6...)
When I was wondering which matches I would see on Tuesday, I chose Mahut-Isner as one of them. I even remember what I was thinking about the possible outcome: "Isner will win something like 7-6 5-7 6-4 7-6, so would be nice to see two tie-breaks".
When I first came around the court I realized it was "4-6 2:0" so I was a little bit disappointed because that scoreline had suggested that probably wouldn't have even been "7" in numbers of the first two sets. At one set apiece I decided to enter the court No. 18 and had a pleasure to watch every single point of 10 out of 11 hours of that extraordinary encounter! The sets 3rd and 4th obviously didn't disappoint me, there were two tie-breaks what was already nice, but what's maybe more important - the quality of tennis was quite high.
The next day I decided to go on court No. 18 earlier, already to see Molik in action and wait for the future legends. I knew (after what I saw on Tuesday) that the record of the longest 5th set would be broken. The scoreline was '6-4 3-6 6-7(7) 7-6(3)' and it reminded me about previous Wimbledon's record which had been made ten years earlier when Philippoussis beat Schalken 4-6 6-3 6-7(7) 7-6(4) 20-18, it's tough not to see the similarity between the scorelines
Isner & Mahut had been very convincing in their service games during sets No. 3 and 4, so I knew that after a night of rest one break would be pivotal, "Maybe will be 15-13, maybe 16-14, maybe a new record 22-20 or 23-21, or maybe it's just a wishful thinking?".
The last two sets on Tuesday produced great atmosphere on court, I was actually surprised that on Wednesday, more or less until 25:25 the crowd was very peaceful, some people went out with tired faces. I suppose people didn't realize that already at 20:20 they were a part of history in the making! Nevertheless, from 25:25 to 59:59 the atmosphere was stunning, really tough to describe. I had seen so many matches in the past, but nothing could compare to that amazing mix of positive emotions entwined with unbelievable astonishment of the crowd. Isner is one of my favorite players, I hadn't a good opinion about Mahut. I considered him before that match as a better version of Ivan Navarro, so this type of a player who is weak mentally, likes approaching the net, but is often really awkward out there, and his ground-strokes are average. In the 5th set though, I changed my opinion about Mahut, I was impressed by his both game-style and attitude. He was amazingly serving - that's obvious - yet his forehands, backhands and volleys were just perfect. It was a pleasure to watch his tennis, around 20:20 I started to cheer for him! And I was in majority. I'd say Mahut had an advantage among spectators '70/30'. There was not only Mahut vs. Isner on the court but also "Come on Nico!"
vs. "Come on John!"
in the stands
I was the only person there with "Come on Mahut!" and screamed also "Come on guys, let's go to '40'!"
and "Come on guys, let's go to '50'!"
After 50-all, I was already so extremely astonished that couldn't scream "Let's go to '60'!", I couldn't believe what I was seeing
Honestly, at 40:40 I was convinced Mahut would win this match. He had better attitude, was very eager, well motivated with bigger tennis repertoire; Isner began struggling with cramps, and I have to admit - he is not only a tremendous server, he's a great tactician and unbelievable fighter as well. Between, more or less 35-all and 45-all, he had a few games when his 1st serve was slower than his usual 2nd serve! Yet his ground-strokes (especially off the forehand wing) were of the highest order. It started to appear totally unreal... Isner was hitting winner after winner from the baseline, and what the winners it were? Exceptional! Around 45:45 Isner overcame his physical crisis and enjoyed hitting his service bombs again. In the second part of the legendary 5th set, I had an impression that I was watching a match of robots "Isnernator vs. Marahuthon Man"
They were just perfect in service games, however, schematic in return games. I couldn't understand how it was possible that guys play spectacular winners from the baseline as servers, but when it comes to return games, at once they act completely hopeless from the same positions on the court! They didn't try to change anything in their return games. What could they lose trying to stand inside the court or 5 meters behind, to give the opponent a different look, opening an occasion for a weird return and creating a chance to somehow surprise the server? The match turned into a "ridiculous computer game". When the server won first point in a game, I already knew that a break wouldn't happen. The scoreboard stood still at 47:47, for me it was almost a metaphysical experience because I knew that it happened just in the moment when was tied the record of the longest set in 133 years of tennis history
!!! At 55-all I was a little bit frustrated because I realized that the match would be suspended due to darkness; there was even worse at 58-all when the players got a toilet break, and suddenly Isner had his fourth match point at 59:58, I was convinced it'd be the end - it wasn't... after Mahut's another, countless ace... The match was eventually suspended despite our screaming "We want more! We want more!"
and "Centre Court! Centre Court!"
Thursday: the court No. 18 was sieged. "Everyone" wanted to be a part of the extraordinary history, third different day, and for the third time I was watching the match from a different perspective, I managed hardly to do it, the crowd gathered around the "18" seemed crazy... Well, in the end it was actually an '11-9' set, some kind of a relief for poor Mahut, I suppose it's better for him to lose that way than '58-60' the day before...
Link to MTF thread
Link to WP article
(check also a comprehensive French version)