LONDON, June 24 – Tennis history was rewritten at Wimbledon on Wednesday as Nicolas Mahut and John Isner shattered the record for the longest-ever match — and still could not finish.
A string of tennis records were blown away as the players came off court at 59-59 in the final set, having slugged it out for exactly 10 hours when play was suspended as they ran out of daylight.
"Nothing like this will ever happen again, ever," said an exhausted Isner, the American 23rd seed.
A weary Mahut said: "We’re just fighting like we never did before. Someone has to win so we will come back tomorrow and see who’s going to win this match.
"It’s just amazing, the crowd is just fantastic and everyone wants to see the end but they have to come back tomorrow.
"We played for too long, I don’t know how many hours."
Isner added: "I don’t know what to say. He’s serving fantastic and I’m serving fantastic."
Astonishingly, Isner wanted to carry on when play was suspended.
Tennis fans packed out the 782-capacity Court 18, with people lining the roof of the Wimbledon broadcasting centre several deep, and straining to peer through any gaps they could to catch a glimpse of the epic match.
The unfinished fifth set has taken seven hours and six minutes so far — itself outlasting the previous longest match ever played, which took six hours and 33 minutes.
That match took place at the 2004 French Open, when Fabrice Santoro beat fellow Frenchman Arnaud Clement 6-4, 6-3, 6-7, 3-6, 16-14.
Isner and Mahut started playing on Tuesday, when they managed to complete four sets before sunset stopped them the first time around.
Isner won the first set 6-4, Mahut won the second 6-3 and the third 7-6 (9/7), before Isner won the fourth set 7-6 (7/3).
Some Wimbledon scoreboards gave up at 47-47 in the final set.
They will now have to try to finish the match on Thursday, which was already set to be a historic day for Wimbledon as Queen Elizabeth II makes her first visit since 1977.
A string of other records also tumbled in the duel.
Grass-court specialist Mahut and Isner beat the record for the most games in a match, which had stood at 112 in singles and 122 in doubles.
Their encounter has lasted 163 games so far.
They both broke the record for the number of aces, with Isner’s 98 so far and Mahut’s 95 surpassing the record of 78 set by Croatia’s Ivo Karlovic in 2009 in a mach against Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic.
And the most aces in a match record was also doubled, with the combined 193 topping the 96 set in the Karlovic-Stepanek game.
The winner will eventually face Dutchman Thiemo de Bakker in the second round. De Bakker beat Colombia’s Santiago Giraldo 6-7 (4/7), 6-4, 6-3, 5-7, 16-14 in another marathon match carried over from Tuesday.
Mahut, 28, the world number 148, is no stranger to epic encounters, having gone through one just to qualify for Wimbledon.
In the second of the three qualifying rounds last week, Mahut beat British number two Alex Bogdanovic 3-6, 6-3, 24-22.
In the fifth set, 25-year-old Isner, the world number 19, had one match point at 10-9, two at 33-32 and one at 59-58. Mahut then fired down an ace to take it back to deuce, before going on to win the game.
Then, at 59-59 and 9:10pm (2010 GMT) with the light fading fast, match officials suspended play.