23:33 Thu 24 Jun 2010
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Those numbers are the points for John Isner and Nicolas Mahut, respectively, in their ludicrously epic first-round Wimbledon match, the longest professional tennis match in history (by some margin) either by total games or total time. Twice suspended due to darkness, the match ended today, 6–4, 3–6, 6–7 (7), 7–6 (3), 70–68 to Isner.

The numbers in the title are not in the wrong order—Mahut won 24 more points than Isner. Enough points to win six games—an entire set’s worth. Yet he lost, because some points are more important than others.

I saw some of it, including the final three or four games of the 11:05 match. Mahut looked fresher physically for all of the fifth set that I saw. He couldn’t find a way into Isner’s service games, however, and despite looking dead on his feet Isner was more consistent. More consistent than an opponent who held serve 84 straight times. I’m not sure “consistent” really does that justice.

The previous longest match was Fabrice Santoro over Arnaud Clement, first round of the 2004 French Open, at 6:33—shorter than the fifth set of Isner–Mahut, which clocked in at 8:11.

The records stretch on and on. Both players obliterated the old ace record, Isner with 112 aces and Mahut with 103. I assume they also now have the most winners. Unbelievably, they may not have the record for the most errors, as there were only 91 (Isner 52 Mahut 39)—a low enough number that it might not be a record.

I can’t resist this completely inappropriate comparison: the lowest-scoring NBA playoff game in the shot clock era was the Celtics over the Pistons 66–64 in 2002, scoring fewer points than Isner and Mahut played games in the fifth set.

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