Ten Hour Tennis?

The tennis summer season is certainly underway and it can be said that it has illuminated and revitalised not only tennis, but sport itself. The formality of the men’s French Open with Nadal overpowering all who dared step in his way against the surprise in the women’s competition with Schiavone grasping her chance of victory was a decent introduction. However, Wimbledon has blown the sport wide open and has already enthralled not only the nation, but the world through the opening days.

I personally thought that the magic of Wimbledon, with the electric murmurs of the crowd, the enthusiastic British support combined with the traditional aspects of the tournament would be dulled due to the rare occasion of the football World Cup and the excitement of a world completely devoted to it. However, the rather lacklustre opening rounds of the football and the magic of Wimbledon has caused less transfixed eyes to wander. Wimbledon may not be as rare and all encompassing as the World Cup but with them being on at the same time it has to provide something extremely special; and it hasn’t disappointed.

This short piece does not do adequate justice to the strange couple of days that have occurred at Wimbledon over the past week but here we go. Many would argue, as I do, that Roger Federer is the greatest grass court player in the world and he has made Wimbledon his second home over the past decade. It may have been surprising therefore to see him struggle and almost throw it all away against a relative unknown in Alejandro Falla. It was painful yet enthralling to see him tested, out-fought, and out-thought in the theatre that is centre court and for a while he looked the loneliest man in south England. However many have learnt that Federer never sees himself as a beaten man until that last point is won and he proved his power and mental capacity to fight back. This spectacle and fight back already matched the drama of the World Cup. With Nadal and Murray tearing through their first rounds and Roddick’s serve being, as per usual, devastating many eyes may have strayed back to the football but thankfully Wimbledon threw up something that can only be described by one word; unbelievable, defying all belief and all physical possibilities.

If you do not know what I am discussing then turn on the television or watch the news because it is being discussed by almost everyone involved in tennis and sport. I am of course talking about the sublime, ridiculous, and herculean battle that has gone on, and probably still is going on, between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut. As I write they are continuing on today at 59-59 in the fifth set after playing for more than ten hours and it is the longest game in the history of tennis. This feat is brilliant in itself and it is an absolute shame that someone has to lose this match as both of them have shown absolute commitment to winning and to tennis by laying their fitness, health, and bodies on the line. Watching Mahut dive for the ball just before the game was postponed for bad light was truly brilliant yet it was worrying watching both of them play with glassy eyed expressions and watching Isner limp around the court in a sense of delirium. The match is amazing yet it is also dangerous as it can cause players serious damage. This is shown through John McEnroe stating that this match can put them back six months due to the damage they are putting their bodies under. Some have called for a tie break in the fifth set at 6-6 or 20-20 but I say let it happen. This may be dangerous yet it will only happen once and these players are prepared to take that risk for tennis, yes they must be careful but sport is dangerous and people must realise this and applaud their physical and mental prowess. As Isner said through his heaving breaths at the end of the second day of the encounter, a match like this will never happen again, therefore we must revel in it and congratulate these two men who will deservedly be written into the record books and be remembered in tennis folklore, rather than prohibit amazing and inspiring events like this happening again.

It is also brilliant to see the Queen at Wimbledon, it has been a poor tournament for the Brits with only Murray left in and safe bets such as Baltacha crashing out; therefore to see her supporting Murray against Nieminen is uplifting for the whole nation and should be applauded. In fact she should turn up every time Murray plays and maybe he will win as he duly impressed the Queen with a confident performance!

With all these stories and events happening in the first couple of rounds many may be worried that Wimbledon will quieten down. However, I think that this is just the beginning and I, like all tennis fans will be glued to the TV screen hoping that it sprinkles a little more sporting magic on the nation. I also hope that the England football team can watch this tournament and see the commitment shown, then they will realise what it takes to be truly great.

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