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Wimbledon: Longest match ever will stretch into third day

June 23, 2010 |  1:52 pm

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The longest match in tennis history was suspended because of darkness at 59-59 in the fifth set at Wimbledon on Wednesday.

The first-round match between 23rd-seeded John Isner of the United States and qualifier Nicolas Mahut of France already had been suspended because of fading light Tuesday night after the fourth set.

They have been playing each other for a total of exactly 10 hours -- 7 hours 6 minutes in the fifth set alone, enough to break the full-match record of 6:33, set at the 2004 French Open.

Never before in the history of Wimbledon, which first was contested in 1877, had any match -- singles or doubles, men or women -- lasted more than 112 games, a mark set in 1969. Isner and Mahut played more games than that in their fifth set and still could not determine a victor, although the American came close: He had four match points, but Mahut saved each one.

Even a courtside electronic scoreboard couldn't keep up, getting stuck at 47-47 when the score had risen to 48-48, then eventually going dark entirely.

Yet the pair played on. All of the numbers were truly astounding: They played 881 points, 612 in the fifth set. Isner hit 98 aces, Mahut 95 -- both eclipsing the previous high for a match at any tournament, 78.

But they are not finished. The match will continue, stretching into a third day.

Shortly after 9 p.m. local time, Mahut and Isner approached the net to discuss with a tournament official whether to keep going Wednesday.

"I want to play," Mahut said, "but I can't see."

Fans began chanting, "We want more! We want more!" then saluted the players with a standing ovation.

In a courtside TV interview, Isner said: "Nothing like this will ever happen again. Ever."

-- Associated Press

Photos: John Isner, left, and Nicolas Mahut. Credit: Suzanne Plunkett / Reuters.

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