Friday Five: The longest matches in tennis history

Published by Paul Moore

John Isner won the longest match in tennis history. Photo: Getty Images

The tennis world was agog last night when Andy Murray and Philipp Kohlschreiber somehow managed to duke out a 31 minute tiebreak. 31 minutes? Pah! When it comes to titanic tennis tussles, 31 minutes is a drop in the ocean compared with the five longest matches of all time (it’s not even a patch on the 36-34 breaker played out between Benjamin Balleret and Guillaume Couillard in a 2013 Futures tournament – the longest ATP-ratified tiebreak on record). Welcome to this week’s Friday Five, a celebration of titanic tennis tussles.

5. 6 hrs 22 mins: McEnroe d. Wilander – 1982 Davis Cup

Not only was John McEnroe and Mats Wilander’s epic 79-game the decider in the 1982 Davis Cup quarterfinals, it was also the fifth longest match in history. McEnroe won the match 9-7 6-2 15-17 3-6 8-6 in 6 hour 22 minutes in a time before tiebreaks existed.

4. 6 hrs 31 mins: Nelson d. Hepner – 1984 Central Fidelity Banks International

Unfortunately (or perhaps deliberately) there are no video or photographic records of the only WTA match to appear in this top 5 (and the only match that finished in straight sets). Why did it take Vicki Nelson 6 hours and 31 minutes to beat Jean Hepner 6-4 7-6(11)? Well, the 29-minute, 643 shot rally probably didn’t help. Needless to say, this one was an absolue monster of a match.

3. 6 hrs 33 mins: Santoro d. Clement – 2004 French Open

Fabrice Santoro. Photo: Getty Images
Two days, five sets and whole lot of Allez-ing greeted this 6 hour 33 minute monster of a French Open clash – the second longest in Grand Slam history – between home heroes Fabrice Santoro and Arnauld Clement. Santoro took the victory over two days of play, winning 6–4 6–3 6–7(5) 3–6 16–14.

2. 6 hrs 43 mins: Mayer d. Souza – 2015 Davis Cup

A rivalry for the ages undoubtedly deserves a match that lasts for ages. When Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer took on Joao Souza in the fourth rubber of the 2015 Davis Cup first round, few would have expected that 6 hours and 43 minutes later Mayer would emerge a 7–6(4) 7–6(5) 5–7 5–7 15–13 victor. It was yet another one from the annuals of Davis Cup epics (seven of the ten longest matches in history have been played at Davis Cup).

1. 11 hrs 5 mins: Isner d. Mahut – 2010 Wimbledon

Let’s be honest, this was no classic. But don’t let the fact that neither man could return serve for three days muddy the waters of this historic confrontation. John Isner and Nicolas Mahut captivated the world during their titanic match, with the American eventually winning 6–4 3–6 6–7(9) 7–6(3) 70–68. Isner was, understandably, knackered after the match, and lost his second round match 6-0 6-3 6-2 in an hour and 14 minutes to Thiemo de Bakker.

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