ATP Tennis 360

June 25, 2010 4:24 AM

Neverending story

"Ball boys became ball men", said Tom Fordyce on his blog on the BBC website. And it summarize probably better than every word or number what the "match of the century" was: who assisted to Isner-Mahut in the future will say "I was there". Because it was a life-defining moment.

Nonetheless, Queen Elizabeth's protocol wasn't changed. John McEnroe tried to persuade the organizers to make them play on the Centre Court, but that didn't happen. She came back to Wimbledon after 33 years on thursday, the third day of the longest match in tennis history, and took place in the Royal Box to see Andy Murray easily defeat Jarkko Nieminen while, on the court 18, the two heroes were writing an unforgettable page of sport, epic, history and legend. Isner finally won, breaking at the fifth match point after 138 games in the fifth set (70-68), 183 total games played and 980 points exchanged. They complessively played for 11 hours and 5 minutes, 8 hours and 11 in the only fifth set (the previously longest match took 6h 33 to finish). Isner, the American giant (2m06, the tallest player in the pro circuit) served 112 aces, Mahut 105: Karlovic held the record of aces with 78 registered in the Davis Cup rubber against Stepanek where the old record for combined aces were established with 96.

Mahut, a grass-specialist, an ex Wimbledon junior champion who in the 2007 Artois Championship (the Queen's tournament) defeated Nadal and lost to Roddick in the final match without never being broken, served 65 times to stay in the match but finally cracked.

But there was a minor change to the protocol in the end. Tim Henman and Ann Jones, two ex British champions, went on court to reward the two heroes in a short but somewhat moving ceremony. After 11 minutes and 5 minutes they were given a 10" Tipperary Crystal Bowl (to be engraved) and six Waterford Crystal Wimbledon champagne flutes. Also the chair umpire, the nice Swedish Mohamed Lahyani, were rewarded for his "patience" with a bowl, a tie and some cufflinks. "I travel Economy," he said. "Seven hours sitting still on court is nothing".

The only avoidable moment was the photo shot with the players and the referee beside the wall with the score.

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