Tag Archives: Isner v Mahut

Sporting Heroes

The post I was almost finished will have to wait until tomorrow.

I flicked on to the tennis while I was waiting for Germany v Ghana to start, and while I was just writing the last few sentences. It’s now 9.20, the sentences are unwritten and the football is over, without me having seen a single second.

Nicolas Mahut from France and John Isner from the US have just stopped their final set, because of darkness, at 59 games all. Tomorrow one of them will win, but if ever the meaningless cliché “they are both winners” did mean anything, then this is the time. They are both part of history now. 

And while they were both magnificent, my heart warmed especially to Mahut. In a week when the French football team exited the World Cup as a laughing stock this young man, over the course of an incredible ten hours, will have restored France’s pride as a sporting nation. I hope many, many French people saw it, they deserve a lift after what the footballers have put them through.

Imagine the pressure on him when he served at 4-5 down in the fifth set, needing to hold his serve to stay in the match. Then imagine the pressure each of the 55 times he had to do it again after that.

I won’t ever forget Isner either, a man who kept producing astonishing shots while looking as if he could barely stand. 

People will say (indeed they’ve already started on the BBC) that enough’s enough, that Wimbledon should follow the rest of tennis in having a fifth-set tie-break. They will point out that the winner has very little chance of winning their second-round tie now (especially since their opponent won at what now seems like a canter, at a mere 16-14 in the final set).

But neither of them were ever going to win the whole event. Had the game ended at 7-6 whoever won would have gone out in a round or two, beaten out of sight of the camera on some far-flung court. Instead they’ve taken part in something truly remarkable, something that will never be forgotten by either of them, by the crowd lucky enough to be there, by those like me lucky enough to see it.

They’re part of history now, sporting legends. Would either of them swap it?