Although most of the sporting world has been focussed on the football World Cup recently & especially yesterday, as England played their vital qualifying match against Slovenia. A lot of people may have overlooked the fact that the Wimbledon tennis tournament started on Monday.
But, as if to remind us all that Wimbledon really is underway, the tournament suddenly produces one of the great sports stories of, possibly, all time.
At around 9pm last night, play was suspended for the day, because of the light & it brought the curtain down, for the time being at least, on one of the great tennis matches.
The match between John Isner & Nicolas Mahut, two relaitvely unknown players, is delictaely poised at 59 games all in the fifth & final set. Yes, that's 59 games all!
The match has now broken just about every tennis record in the book. It is now the longest ever match, at over 10 hours played, so far. In fact, the fifth set itself would qualify the match as the longest ever played.
Both players have now served very close to 100 aces each, yet another record & still, they will have to come back & try to complete the match today.
Like a lot of people yesterday, i was watching parts of the match, in between the World Cup football. Every time i switched the tennis on, the match was still going on & it became the subject of much conversation in our house. Partly because nobody could quite believe what was happening.
The previous longest match at Wimbledon was between Pancho Gonzales & Charlie Pasarell in 1969 & i can still remember watching that match on TV. The reason i remember it is precisely because the match lasted so long. It just never seemed to end. Maybe when you're only 11 years old time works in a slightly different way? I think this match will live long in many memories for exactly the same reason.
Of course, this match has opened up a debate about final set tie breaks & should matches be allowed to continue for this long? Personally, i think that this shows all that is great about sport. Here we have a match, between two, obviously, very evenly matched players & in my opinion this match should be allowed to take as long as it takes. It has become almost like a gladitorial contest. Two players fighting it out to the death. That is a little dramatic maybe. But, isn't that what sport is all about?
But, the other reason i think that this match is so amazing, is that is shows us ordinary mortals, just how fit the modern sportsman, or women really are. We all sit at home, in the comfort of our armchairs & shout & scream at "these overpaid & pampered" sports people. I'm as guilty of that as anyone. And we all think that we could do better & now a match like this shows us that in actual fact, no, we couldn't.
I would find it hard to stand up for over 10 hours, yet alone play world class tennis for anything like that long. These guys are amazing athletes, as are all those other professional sports people around the world. Yes, some sports are more strenuous than others. But, ultimately, could any of us match that stamina, mental strentgh, athleticism, fitness & sheer determination? I know for sure that i couldn't.
So, John Isner & Nicolas Mahut, i salute you. May the best man win, eventually.