The Longest Match
No need to recite all the stats on how many hours, how many games, how many aces, etc…. The Isner/Mahut match one goes down as a Match For the Ages that will never be equaled – and it should NOT be!

I agree that it was “news worthy” and got tennis onto the evening news and front pages of the sport’s sections; but was it really in the best interest of the players? I think not.

John Isner was too sore to even warm-up for his second round match today; and lost the first set 6-0 in 16 minutes! While it will be a big boost for his “celebrity” and his confidence, it could have a lasting negative effect on his physical being.

What to do? I think the balance between “Wimbledon tradition” and practicality would be to continue playing at 6-6 in the fifth set; but at some designated point (10-10, 15-15, 20-20) play a traditional tiebreaker.

7 thoughts on “The Longest Match

  1. Credit to Mahut and Isner for their serving and perserving. Very little credit to them however for their return of serve. Poor returning was as much a factor as was the good serving — but this is undermentioned in all the hype about this match. Federer and Roddick would have never gone this long — their Wimbledon epic last summer only went to 18-16.

    Andrew – a tennis pro friend said the exact same thing offline! geo

  2. This match was a once-in-a-century event and look at all the attention it brought to tennis and Wimbledon– in spite the World Cup activity at the same time. Because of this I doubt the Wimbledon Directors would ever consider changing the format. — not in our lifetimes.
    Bob – but yet, ESPN cut off tv coverage to switch to the soccer! geo

  3. Hi George—I am, and I imagine many fans are, conflicted on this issue. Tradition says ‘play it out’….but what happens when that just gets ‘stupid’. I believe this got a little ‘stupid’ (though of course great drama and monumental efforts). After all the cogitation, my opinion is that at some point (20-20?) it makes sense for everybody and every constituency to go to a TB. As you mentioned, by playing it out John and Nicholas effectively lost their next round, so were penalized by their efforts….does that make sense? Maybe you satisfy tradition by keeping it completely open-ended for the Final?! Cheers, Kevin

  4. George,
    I agree with you. I’d suggest a fifth set tiebreaker at 12-12 (which would double the usual total games preceding the tiebreaker and still make the final set longer then Isner’s second round, straight set loss today).

    Dag = Logical! And congrats again on your Quincy tournament victory. geo

  5. George,

    I have to disagree with you. I think it was good for tennis, and will prove to be helpful to the careers of the participants. Most bad law is made in trying to deal with outliers, or situations that are incredibly rare. I think that this match qualifies as an outlier, and that the Wimbledon practice of playing on at 6-6 in the fifth set adds a bit of unique drama to the fortnight that doesn’t need to be changed just because a once in a lifetime event occurred.

    Steve Feldhaus

    Steve – i agree that the exception should not make the rule… and hope it is a once in a lifetime event! geo

  6. George it was televised and went over to ESPNU.
    I don’t think it will ever get changed and agree with Steve it def adds to the excitement. In the end they coudn’t move and was all down to serves.
    They both served amazing and got a little boring at one time.

    Hi Gail – Yes, they announced it was switching to ESPNU; but i was at a place that didnt get it (as were many other people). geo.

  7. Plain and simple…. don’t change a thing. In the century plus that “The Championships” have existed, nothing like this has happened before. Thus, it is not unlike what hydrogeologists call the “100 Year Flood.” Statistically, it may happen again, even next year, but that is very, very unlikely. All sorts of decisions are made based on the expected frequency of the “100 Year Flood” and humankind gets along quite nicely — usually — relying on that predicted outcome to make its plans. I am talking about things like the availability of flood insurance and underwriting premiums, the designation of flood hazard zones where construction is not permitted, master planning in the land use setting, environmental cleanup standards, the allocation of water resources by government, etc.

    Unless someone can point to some well established and scientifically supported reason to expect that the expected frequency of the “100 Year Flood” has changed to less than 100 years (global warming might be an example with flooding), there is no reason to change flood zone maps and land use planning, for example, merely because the “100 Year Flood” actually does occur somewhere within any given century. Duh!

    Long tennis matches at Wimbledon are likely similar. Unless there is some reason to expect that the Isner-Mahut match is a harbinger of some new change in the game that may cause us to change our expectations about the tennis equivalent of the “100 Year Flood” (for example, better racquet technology or changing the dimensions of the tennis court), there is no reason to expect that it will not take another century or so before we see another match like this, if ever. Of course, if there is another long match like this sometime in the near future that seems statistically improbable, then maybe there is some kind of previously overlooked dynamic going on, like better racquet technology, that should be explored to see if this changes our expectations. If so, then that would be the time to be discussing any rules changes at Wimbledon, but not now. (By the way, this also happens with hydrogeologists who go back to recalculate their “100 Year Flood” predictions when there is more than one big flood that occurs in a designated location within a statistically improbable time frame.)

    As Steve Feldhaus properly alluded to above (the lawyer’s adage is “Hard facts make bad law”), we should not be too quick to rush to change anything based on this one match. Otherwise, we risk fixing something that really is not broken.

    Marty – the best thing about your comment is the opening, “Plain and simple.” When did you ever give a “plain and simple” answer?!?! tks – geo

Comments are closed.