Marathon men meet again at Wimbledon

John Isner


Nicolas Mahut

MahutIt's not often the most memorable match of a Wimbledon comes in the first round of the tournament. But that's exactly what happened last year as John Isner defeated Nicolas Mahut in a match that was played over three days and set numerous ATP records.

In only fitting fashion, they will meet for the first time since then in the first round of this year's Wimbledon.

This marks just the eighth time in the Open era (44 years) at Wimbledon that there will be a back-to-back repeat first-round match (player who won first match won second match five of past seven times).

While this provides some context, it doesn't do justice to the unlikely nature of this matchup occurring again.

After last year's marathon match, the probability that Isner and Mahut would draw each other in this year's Wimbledon first round -- given that they were both in the tournament and both unseeded -- is 0.7 percent, or seven in 1,000.

While this sequel will have a hard time living up to the hype, it is still fun to take a look back at last year's marathon.

Isner defeated Mahut 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (3), 70-68 to advance to the second round. In all, there were 183 total games, 215 combined aces and 112 aces by Isner, all ATP records.

The previous longest ATP match was 112 total games. There were 138 games played in the fifth set alone in last year's matchup. Before this match, no fifth set had ever gone longer then 40 games at a Grand Slam event.

Notable Sequels Throughout Sports
Since 1980

Isner and Mahut (103) each had more than 100 aces in the match. In the previous 20 years, no two players combined had accounted for more than 100 aces in a single match, let alone one player accumulating that total.

The match took 11 hours and 5 minutes, played over three days. In 2009, the average length of a men's singles match at Wimbledon -- not including retirements and walkovers -- was about 39.4 games. Therefore, the Isner-Mahut match was about four and a half times as long as the average length of a men's singles match at Wimbledon.

How does this rate among other sports? If you took the average length of playoff games in each of the four major North American pro sports over the past five seasons and looked at "equivalent length" games to the Isner-Mahut match, you might be surprised at what you'd find.

The Isner-Mahut match was the equivalent of a 43-inning MLB playoff game, a 35-overtime NBA playoff game, a 15-overtime NFL playoff game and a 12-overtime NHL game. None of which has even come close to happening in the history of those leagues.