Mahut and Isner ready for second round of epic battle

It takes just 10 seconds to read the 33 words printed on a new, oval plaque mounted outside Wimbledon's Court 18 to commemorate the longest ever tennis match, which took place at the All England Club a year ago.

It is a typically understated acknowledgement by Wimbledon organisers of the feat achieved by John Isner and Nicolas Mahut – but then no amount of words could sum up an act of extraordinary endurance that spanned three days and lasted 11 hours and five minutes over five gruelling sets.

Those two same gladiators will return today to the All England Club for a rematch after they were shocked to be drawn together for a first-round meeting.

"I'm very happy to come back to the UK and play in front of the English fans, and at the same time I'm a little bit worried about being able to meet the expectations. It's a question of not letting people down," said Frenchman Mahut, who lost last year's epic match.

"Freakish", "astonishing", "unbelievable", "mind-boggling" and "bizarre" are just some of the words competitors used when Isner and Mahut were drawn together again for this year's championships – the same words, in fact, that were used to describe their first-round encounter last June, which kept a global audience of millions glued to their seats.

Going into today's encounter, American Isner summed up the sentiments of the two players best by saying: "It's weird and it's cruel."

At the time of the draw last Friday, Wimbledon referee Andrew Jarrett twisted the knife further by suggesting that "there is every possibility we could schedule it for Court 18 again".

That, though, would be the worst-case scenario for Mahut, who plunged into depression for three months after losing the 183-game match 6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 70-68.

"I hope that the organisers will try and avoid that situation [of playing again on Court 18]. But if I have to go back out there, then I don't know. It will be a strange feeling because it will be impossible for me not to think about [last year's] match," said Mahut.

The chances are that with so much buzz and expectation surrounding the rematch, a court holding just 782 spectators will not do, and this time they will play out Act II of their rivalry on either Centre Court or Court One.

"This time there's obviously a lot of attention, and all this is a bit new," said Mahut, who has been struggling to come to terms with the hype.

A year ago, Mahut served the first ball of the match at 6.13pm on Tuesday 22 June. The "never-ending match" finally reached its conclusion at 4.48pm on Thursday 24 June.

The fifth set alone lasted eight hours 11 minutes and was 98 minutes longer than the previous longest grand slam match ever played, when Fabrice Santoro finally celebrated victory over Arnaud Clement at the French Open in 2004.

The Isner-Mahut match was not only the longest ever played but broke the records for the longest set, the most games in a set (138), most games in a match (183), most aces in a match by one player (Isner 113) and total aces (216). In the fifth set, Mahut successfully served to stay in the match for 64 games in a row – a display of extraordinary staying power.

Statistics, however, tell only one story – that the match went on and on and on. The numbers reveal nothing about how Isner and Mahut stayed out there for so long, the mental and physical battles they had to endure during the contest, or what happened next.

"We have become really good friends through this experience. That's one of the things that I have become most happy about," said Mahut. "We write to each other and send messages. We follow each other's results and, maybe if my English was a bit better, we'd have more chance to know each other better.

"We've been trying to play doubles for a while but it's difficult. We wanted to play Wimbledon but it's tough as it's best-of-five-sets doubles and also in singles. But we'll definitely play Wimbledon together one year," he added

Following last year's match, Mahut said he suffered "a blackout and a kind of breakdown and almost lost my memory for a bit". It was , indeed, a feeling that came back to haunt him last Friday.

"I was following the draw on my computer when my name came out, then the screen went blank," Mahut explained. "I was sitting in the locker room when this great yell of 'Noooooooo' went up. Nobody could believe it.

"I didn't believe it when they said I had drawn John. I had to go to the television screen just to check it was actually true. Then I got a text from John on my phone. It was of a sad face. We both agree it's just crazy.

"For both of us it is going to be tough mentally and it's weird how it has happened again."

Arts and Entertainment
Sheeran arrives at the 56th annual Grammy Awards earlier this year
musicYes, that would be Ed Sheeran, according to the BBC
Sport
Rio Ferdinand, Alan Shearer, Alan Hansen and Gary Lineker during Hansen's final broadcast
Sport
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Eminem's daughter Hailie has graduated from high school
music
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Arts and Entertainment
'Deep Breath' is Peter Capaldi's first full-length adventure as the twelfth Doctor
TVFirst episode of new series has ended up on the internet
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?