herald

Monday 20 August 2018

Not again... Replay for Wimbledon marathon men

ANDY MURRAY described it on Twitter as "the most amazing thing I've seen in tennis", while Patrick McEnroe, former player and brother of John, tweeted: "Since I haven't been able to get my big brother on Twitter yet, I will say it: 'You cannot be serious'!"

The news that had the tennis world rubbing its eyes in disbelief was the draw for the Wimbledon championships, which start on Monday. Twelve months after John Isner beat Nicolas Mahut at the All England Club in the longest match ever played -- it lasted 11 hours and five minutes and took three days to complete -- the two men were drawn together again in this year's first round.

Last night, mathematicians put the odds against the players meeting at the same stage of the tournament for the second year in succession at 14,000-1.

"It's almost cruel," Isner said after learning of the draw. "I joked actually with Nic a week ago. I texted him: 'Watch us play first round.' He said: 'No man, that's not cool!' I've already spoken to him today. We were supposed to practise tomorrow, but we're not now. It's too weird.

"We might do dinner. We're really good friends now. Obviously we both want to win, but we're going to enjoy it and laugh at it at the same time."

Mahut was in the Wimbledon locker room when he heard the news. "It's just crazy. It's funny because last week I had talked with my coach about playing him again here and we said it would be impossible to play him in the first round," he said.

Isner, a 26-year-old American, and Mahut, a 29-year-old Frenchman, barely knew each before they met last year but have become close since sharing such an extraordinary piece of sporting history. The match, which Isner won 70-68 in the final set, took four-and-a-half hours more to complete than the previous longest contest. It broke a host of other records, including the longest single set (eight hours, 11 minutes) and the most aces in a match and by an individual (Isner finished with 112 and Mahut 105).

hnews@herald.ie

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