There’s hardly a record that John Isner (USA) and Nicolas Mahut (FRA) didn’t beat when they finally laid down their rackets Thursday afternoon after the conclusion of the longest match in tennis history.
Game and match to Isner, and all it took was 11 hours and 5 minutes, played over 3 grueling days. Twice the match had to be suspended because of darkness, and twice the two men returned to the tennis courts at Wimbledon to keep playing a match that couldn’t seem to end.
The world watched in awe as these two professionals battled it out, serve for serve and ace for ace. Millions tuned in to watch the historic event, abandoning temporarily the excitement of the World Cup. But no World Cup match could compete with the heroics of Isner and Mahut – nothing can.
It’s not just the records that make this match so incredible. It’s not the stage, and it’s not the result. It’s the players. Two men who in one fateful match transcended the moniker of being athletes and became, quite simply, warriors.
There are some people out there who are of the opinion that the world of sports is made up of nothing but a bunch of juiced-up angry men trying to kill each other playing a “game”. The stereotype is juvenile in its simplicity, yet there are too many instances of athletes acting childish (Manny Ramirez, Terrell Owens, etc) to discredit the notion entirely.
However, what Isner and Mahut accomplished is proof that there is more to sports than just “playing a game”. For the last three days court 18 became a battlefield and the two men became soldiers, engaged in a fight as ageless as any of the battles that shaped England’s history. But this wasn’t a fight to the death. No, it was a fight for self-enlightenment – a struggle that would put to question each man’s ability, commitment, and determination.
The sheer will power and strength of character required to keep going, to keep firing 100 mph serves and ferocious volleys, and to keep fighting when every muscle fiber screamed of pain and exhaustion – this is a testament in itself to what happened between the two men. For just over 11 hours they made tennis, and sports in general, more than just a “game”. Isner may have won the match, but both players ultimately won the war.
John Inser. Nicolas Mahut. We salute you.