Wednesday, June 23, 2010


You can be the best or the brightest or the fastest or the strongest. Or you can just hang on longer -- far, far longer -- than anyone else in history.

It’s Wimbledon, and watch these guys -- Isner and Mahut. Not for the best serves, or returns, or strategy. Watch these two guys because they’re so far in their heads, they won’t let go, they can’t let go. 59-59 games in the final set – beyond what’s ever been done, so way beyond it’s crazy, it’s -- the commentators tried to come up with a superlative -- “Epic, no, beyond that, it’s… epic and then something…”


And I’ll bet anyone who has ever punted a ball over the net is boring others with their personal best.

(Sybil. Semi final, Juniors. She had a better forehand, I had a better backhand. We had played before and before and before. It seemed it was always Sybil or it was always me.

But this one match, we pounded away for hours,from early afternoon until dark. We finally weren’t playing tennis at all; we just smacked each other’s hearts back and forth, cross court and down the line.

All other matches I remember because I raised a trophy, or didn’t. But this one I remember from right in the middle. Just the ball and my arm, and the way my arm crossed my chest and stopped, then swung free. There weren’t ten voices, or five or even one in my head. The whole world was silent, but for the whack and the whack and the whack.)

In soccer, even in the World Cup, if two teams are evenly matched on a given day, they’ll call the whole thing a draw so everyone can go out and get drunk.

Not so in tennis. 59-59 games in the final set? Tomorrow, lift one for Isner and Mahut. We’ll never see the likes of this again.

ap photo. Epicalifragilistic match continues tomorrow.


  1. I heard about this on the radio and you're right--the commentators just couldn't find words. They've had to call the match twice now, twice, because of darkness.

    I knew you'd have something pithy to say about it and I was right.

    "...the whack and the whack and the whack."

  2. Wow. It's wild. Remember back in the day when they didn't have tie breakers for ANY sets? Those were the days. Now Wimbledon is the only place I think that doesn't have a tiebreaker in the deciding set.

  3. If you want to watch from work or on the road, you can stream it live at

    One more thing. The umpire for this match was amazing -- charming but absolutely firm, and there were no arguments at all (there's no camera for outside courts). So I googled him. He's Swedish and his name is Mohamed Lahyani. Players call him Mo. He's the most popular on the tour and worth watching in his own right.

  4. I have been totally fascinated by this match. And thrilled that someone else is watching/reading and amazed by it, too. My heart wants both men to be advanced... for sportsmanship if not for perseverance.

    The 'whack' is the loveliest sound on a tennis court. I was picked for my college's team, but gave it up years later after beating my boss' boss in a company tournament. Now I root for the epicalifragistic players.

    Love your post, Karin!

  5. huh
    out of my league
    I would have called it quits and walked home...maybe drunk

  6. Oh, I almost believed it would never end; I'd wake up every morning and they'd still be playing.

    (Never should have been rooting for the Frenchman; that was the kiss of death to him.)

  7. Hadn't heard about this...makes my arm hurt just thinking about it!!! How about a Mai Tai PA???

  8. Amazing. I don't watch tv or listen to the news, so this is the first I've heard of it. That's focus, determination, and tenacity, no doubt. Amazing athletes and, I agree, they should both advance. After they've had a few days off to rest up.

  9. Saw Isner interviewed on Today this morning before he went back to the court. He described his condition as "haggard" and a little sore. Can't believe he had the energy to go back out there again . . . and win.

    Love the story of your match with Sybil.

  10. No final will compete with this.


  11. Like two Secretariate's playing tennis.

  12. I can only imagine the glycogen burn-out. I'll bet they ate more carbs than they ever thought possible...

    wv densumbl
    After 10 hours they felt densumbl.

  13. Hey, that's very nice prose in italics. So that was you against Sybil Somebody? And I love the whack and the whack and the whack. Can't imagine how could you have conveyed that better.

  14. Hope Mahut gets a hero's welcome back home. Isner got to serve for the match every time, all 70 games.

    Linda, I was thinking of the little horse that could -- John Henry.

    Yeah Banjo, shout out to Sybil.

  15. You and Sybil were certainly in the zone! Did you ever notice, when you're in the zone, you can see that the ball moves side to side ever so slightly as it moves through the air?

    I was wrong: Apparently all grand slam tournaments except the US open have no tie breaker in the final set.

  16. Poet Matt Harvey calls it 'tantric tennis'. Perfect!

  17. 'The whole world was silent...we finally weren’t playing tennis at all; we just smacked each other’s hearts back and forth, cross court and down the line.'

    I thought of making a joke, but you understand.

    It's just too beautiful...

  18. Endurance - the unsung talent.
    "never give up, never surrender" - Gallaxy Quest

    another AH classic post!

    I heard on NPR that the Wimbeldon poet laurete (whatever) is asking for haikus on Twitter...wonder if he is trying for a record on the longest string of haikus with that one.

  19. Now, that's something. It kind of seems a shame there had to be a winner in the end, but congrats to John Isner. I'm glad they were both given mementos from the All England Club in honour of such a momentous occasion.

  20. Didn't mean to mess, Swede.

    It was the concept, the scene and that moment of "enlightenment" you described that captured me.

    I miss it.

    Good observation about the tennis ball, Mister Earl.

  21. I read your post yesterday - loved it, as usual.

    Tash mentioned the Wimbledon Poet Laureate, Matt Harvey. I heard his haiku on NPR on my way home:

    "high performance play

    all day yet still no climax

    it's tantric tennis"

  22. Susan, I caught that poet as well. Good haiku. My son was at Wimbledon yesterday with a free guest ticket to watch a match on Court 1. He said that everybody left all the other matches to watch the action on court 18. And both players immediately went on to play their scheduled doubles matches!!! How incredible is that?

    Umpire Mo, when asked how he endured sitting so long supervising the match, said he was used to it after flying around the world in Economy!

  23. Truly amazing. And I don't even watch tennis.

  24. There certainly are no words that do it justice. It brought a lot of attention to tennis. I just can't figure out if it was good or bad for the game. I'm leaning towards good, however.

  25. Oh, I definitely lean that way, B. With all these multi-millionaires who take injury timeouts for a chapped lip or a hangnail, these two played 118 straight games with nothing but one bathroom break.

  26. KB - Did you by any chance Tivo the match? ;-)

  27. What I know about tennis would fill a thimble. I took in in college and darn near failed. I do like the crisp white outfits they make them wear at Wimbledon. I hope they're still doing that.

    Talk about leaving a fluff comment. Guess I just wanted to get back in the swim of things now that I"m home. Home from Paris.........merde happens.