John Isner and Nicolas Mahut are not exactly household names in the world of tennis, which is why they were scheduled to play on Court 18 at Wimbledon.
Little did anyone know that they would produce one of the most remarkable matches in the entire history of the sport.
On Tuesday their match was called to a halt at two sets each because of bad light. So on Wednesday afternoon the two men returned to the court to play out the fifth set of their first round tie.
An incredible seven hours later play was again stopped as the sun went down. The final set score? 59 – 59.
That’s not a misprint. Honestly.
After 108 games of tennis the two players could not be separated in what had become the longest match ever played. In fact the final set alone has so far been played out for longer than the previous record for a match of six hours and 35 minutes.
Even the scoreboard gave up, unable to cope with numbers more usually seen in basketball than tennis.
Mahut, from France, had his first break points of the entire final set at 50-50, but American Isner managed to save both. He had two match points himself at 33-32 and another one at 59-58, but could not close out this most incredible of matches.
John MacEnroe, who has seen almost everything that tennis has to offer, described the match as, “the greatest advertisement we’ve ever had for our sport” and it’s hard to argue with him.
Now anyone who has ever played tennis will tell you that it is a physically demanding sport. And to play at top level for seven hours continuously is an amazing feat.
To put it into context, this is the equivalent, in time at least, of playing almost five games of football back to back. Or of running three marathons one after the other.
There are hardly the words to describe the herculean feat of endurance and stamina that these two athletes have so far achieved. And of course it’s not finished yet!
So the next time you read of footballers complaining that they have to play two games in a week, just remember what true athletes can accomplish.
John Isner and Nicolas Mahut have ensured that their names will go down in sporting history.
They deserve the respect and admiration of every sports fan.