Isner makes short work of Mahut. Nine hours shorter...

Mills and Boon, Rolls and Royce, Laurel and Hardy, and Crosse and Blackwell all had their associations, but as likely as any of them to be linked in perpetuity are John Isner and Nicolas Mahut, whose first-round match at Wimbledon last year was the longest in tennis history, making yesterday's repeat encounter – albeit, aptly, on the longest day of the year - an inevitable anti-climax. There was an early glimmer of possibility that another marathon might be on the cards, the first set going with serve all the way to a tiebreak. There was a third-set tiebreak too. But last year's winner Isner emerged victorious again, 7-6, 6-2, 7-6 in a paltry two hours and three minutes.

Of course, a first-round match between the 47th best player in the world, and the man ranked 94th, neither of them British, would in the normal scheme of things pass without much attention on the second day of Wimbledon. But there is nothing normal about the names of Isner and Mahut, at least not when bracketed together. Last year's contest finished 6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 70-68, and measuring its duration required a calendar as well as a clock. It began just after 6pm on the Tuesday, and finished shortly before 5pm on Thursday, having encompassed 11 hours and five minutes of action.

Since then, the 6ft 9in American and the Frenchman have acknowledged that they are destined to be forever entwined by becoming firm friends. They were both duly tickled by the bizarre twist of happenstance that saw them drawn against each other again in this year's first round, so unlikely that Andy Murray, on Twitter, declared it "the most amazing thing I've seen in tennis!" Murray called for their match to be put on Centre Court, but it was a sunny, wind-buffeted Court 3 where yesterday their mutual affection was set aside.

Despite that opening set tiebreak there was never much chance of anything like last year's record-breaking epic. But how much is "not much chance"? By offering a mere 250-1 against the match going beyond the celebrated milestone of 11 hours and five minutes, the bookmakers William Hill were surely guilty of Scrooge-like stinginess. Ladbrokes were twice as generous, quoting 500-1, although even that looked as improbably short as Isner is improbably tall. Nevertheless, to put those numbers in context, 500-1 are also the Ladbrokes odds against David Cameron becoming the next leader of the Labour Party, Sunderland winning the Premier League next season, and Ryan Giggs being voted the BBC Sports Personality of the Year for this year.

Unsurprisingly, alongside last year's statistics, yesterday's turned out to be positively prosaic. Both men hit eight aces. By comparison, Isner sent 113 past Mahut last year, the record in a single match, while Mahut's 103 aces put him second on the all-time list. When their famous duel finished, there had been 168 consecutive service holds. Yesterday there were never more than 14. Before he finally struck the passing shot that mercifully for everyone but his distraught opponent brought last year's contest to a close, Isner had held four other match points, one at 10-9, two at 33-32, and one at 59-58. Yesterday he required just two.

Still, there seems little chance that yesterday's more commonplace encounter will bury memories of the record-breaking match. If anything it rekindled them, which is why the public seats on Court 3, and the press seats, were crammed. There was reportedly a long hopeful queue to get into the public seats, yet by dispiriting contrast, the much larger reserved section was no more than 50 per cent full, those punters presumably enjoying their champagne and smoked salmon too much to want to see any live tennis, even between the sport's Crosse and Blackwell, if not its Rolls and Royce.

Still, for the protagonists, if not the spectators, the significance of the match was what it presaged for the future, not what it evoked of the past. They did not enter the arena with any particular sense of occasion, and the atmosphere in the crowd was commensurately low-key at least until the third-set tie-break, when the patriotic cries began to ring out. "C'mon John, do it for America," went one, and John did proceed to do it, though probably more for himself, and his feet, than for America. Afterwards, he needed no reminding that he was a physical wreck in last year's second round, losing in straight sets and not hitting a single ace.

"I knew I had no shot unless my opponent sprained his ankle in the first point of the match," he recalled. This time he heads into the second round full of confidence, which is just as well, because he knows he needs to "make a huge mark on a Grand Slam" if he is to be remembered for something other than Isner v Mahut.

The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
Life and Style

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and no-one was arrested

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)

Concerns raised phenomenon is threatening resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
The number of children in relative income poverty is currently 2.3 million in the UK

A Brazilian wandering spider
natureIt's worth knowing for next time one appears in your bananas
Life and Style
Time and Oak have developed a product that allows drinkers to customise the flavour and improve the quality of cheaper whiskey
food + drink


Peter Biaksangzuala died from his injuries in hospital on Sunday

Life and Style
The final 12 acts will be facing Simon Cowell, Cheryl Fernandez-Versini, Mel B and Louis Walsh tonight

The X Factor's judges colourful outfit was mocked by Simon Cowell

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past