Oh no, not again...Wimbledon's marathon men play in first round
Andy Murray described it on Twitter as "the most amazing thing I've seen in tennis", while Patrick McEnroe, former player and brother of John, tweeted: "Since I haven't been able to get my big brother on Twitter yet, I will say it: 'You cannot be serious'!"
The news that had the tennis world rubbing its eyes in disbelief was the draw for the Wimbledon championships, which start on Monday. Twelve months after John Isner beat Nicolas Mahut at the All England Club in the longest match ever played – it lasted 11 hours and five minutes and took three days to complete – the two men were drawn together again in this year's first round.
Last night, mathematicians put the odds against the players meeting at the same stage of the tournament for the second year in succession at 14,000-1. "It's almost cruel," Isner said after learning of the draw. "I joked actually with Nic a week ago. I texted him: 'Watch us play first round.' He said: 'No man, that's not cool!' I've already spoken to him today. We were supposed to practise tomorrow, but we're not now. It's too weird.
"We might do dinner. We're really good friends now. Obviously we both want to win, but we're going to enjoy it and laugh at it at the same time."
Mahut was in the Wimbledon locker room when he heard the news. "It's just crazy. It's funny because last week I had talked with my coach about playing him again here and we said it would be impossible to play him in the first round," he said.
Isner, a 26-year-old American, and Mahut, a 29-year-old Frenchman, barely knew each before they met last year but have become close since sharing such an extraordinary piece of sporting history. The match, which Isner won 70-68 in the final set, took four-and-a-half hours more to complete than the previous longest contest. It broke a host of other records, including the longest single set (eight hours, 11 minutes) and the most aces in a match and by an individual (Isner finished with 112 and Mahut 105).
Mahut and Isner were on opposite sides of the net in a mixed-doubles match in Australia in January but have not played each other in a singles match since their Wimbledon meeting. Last year's match was held on Court 18, where there is now a plaque commemorating the contest. Next week's reunion, due to be played on Tuesday, is more likely to be played on either Centre Court or Court One, such will be the worldwide interest.
Croatian player Ivo Karlovic tweeted: "That should be the only match of the day on that court. Unless they wanna waste three days again."
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