It was as though Shackleton had collapsed on his way to the postbox the day after returning from the Endurance expedition. John Isner, the giant American who had won the longest tennis match in history the previous day, was dumped out of Wimbledon yesterday in just 75 minutes.
Isner's size 15 trainers had left a mark on the sport when he took 11 hours and five minutes to beat Nicolas Mahut in a match spread over three days – winning the deciding fifth set by the surreal score of 70-68. Yesterday, however, Isner was unravelled by a combination of a young Dutchman named Thiemo De Bakker, fatigue, and a "gnarly" blister on his little toe.
"Sometimes with a blister you can play through it," he grumbled afterwards. "Once you play, adrenalin will take over, but I didn't have much in the way of legs. I was just low on fuel."
Mahut had broken Isner's remorseless serve just once in 183 games, facing a record 113 aces. Yesterday Isner lost each of his first four service games and didn't even hit a single ace as he crashed 6-0, 6-3, 6-2. He summoned a masseur after losing the first set in just 16 minutes, and a medical officer held frequent, anxious conversations during breaks. "I wasn't going to quit," he said. "It wasn't like I was dying out there. I was just tired, you know."
Isner had the sense not to take up a doubles engagement yesterday, and vowed not to pick up his racket at all for a while. "I'm not going to be practising for at least four or five days," he said. "I'll watch sports. I'll take in the World Cup. I'll go fishing. Just anything away from the tennis court."
*Wimbledon officials were last night waiting to study video footage of a controversial ending to the third-round match between Romania's Victor Hanescu and Germany's Daniel Brands. Hanescu, who retired when Brands was leading 6-7, 6-7, 7-6, 6-3, 3-0, allegedly swore at someone in the crowd and was given a code violation for unsportsmanlike conduct. Four spectators were also arrested during the match, though they were not involved in the dispute with Hanescu.
Troubled by an injury to his right thigh, Hanescu had treatment when trailing 4-3 in the fourth set. He also complained that it was too dark, but was told to play on. In the final set Hanescu became involved in an argument with spectators, at which point he was said to have sworn. At 2-0 the Romanian dropped serve with a succession of double faults, after which he retired. He was seen on video spitting in anger before walking to the umpire and quitting.