For John Isner, the ultimate marathon man, it probably felt like nothing more than a jog in the park. For some of the spectators in Arthur Ashe Stadium, however, the three hours and 20 minutes it took Isner and Philipp Kohlschreiber to complete their third-round contest here at the US Open on Sunday night probably meant a very long walk home.
With rain delaying the start of the match until after 11pm, it was not until 2.26 am that Kohlschreiber completed his 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory. It equalled the record latest finish here, which was set in 1993 when Mats Wilander beat Mikael Pernfors, though it came nowhere close to the record for any Grand Slam tournament, Lleyton Hewitt having beaten Marcos Baghdatis at the Australian Open at 4.34am four years ago.
"Of course, it's very late, so everybody here is really a crazy tennis fan," Kohlschreiber told the hardy few who had stayed to listen to his post-match interview on court.
Defeat completed a miserable summer at Grand Slam level for Isner, whose 11-hour victory over Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon two years ago broke all records. Much had been expected of the 27-year-old American after his performances in the spring, when he reached his first Masters Series final at Indian Wells, broke into the world's top 10 and was the hero of the United States' Davis Cup victory away to France. He went on to lose in the second round at the French Open and the first round at Wimbledon, though he did bounce back to win titles at Newport and Winston-Salem.
Isner's frustrations were evident in his clashes with officials. Initially upset by a misunderstanding with Carlos Bernardes, the umpire, over a video-replay challenge, he was given a warning after hitting a ball in anger into the crowd and then deducted a point after smashing his racket.
Kohlschreiber, in contrast, is enjoying one of the best years of his career. In 2011 the 28-year-old German won only one match in the four Grand Slam tournaments and finished the year at No 43 in the world rankings. This year he has climbed back to No 20, having reached the fourth round in Melbourne, the second round in Paris and the quarter-finals at Wimbledon, which was his best performance at a Grand Slam event.
Despite Isner's reputation as a marathon man – earlier this summer he was on court for five hours and 41 minutes against Paul-Henri Mathieu at the French Open – his recent record in five-set matches is poor. This was his fourth loss in a row in five-set matches which have gone the distance, while Kohlschreiber has won his last six in succession.
Isner's defeat left just two Americans in the last 16. Mardy Fish was due to play Roger Federer last night, while Andy Roddick will meet Juan Martin del Potro, the 2009 champion, today. Roddick, having announced last week that this would be the last tournament of his career, continued his winning run with a four-set victory over Italy's Fabio Fognini.
Rafael Nadal, who has not played since Wimbledon because of ongoing problems with his knees, announced yesterday that he will be taking a further two months off. He had hoped to play in Spain's forthcoming Davis Cup tie against the United States, but now he is unlikely to compete again before the season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London.
"My knee needs some rest," Nadal said. "I will be back when I have no pain and I am able to guarantee that I can compete. I feel better after the meeting with my doctors and happy knowing that the evolution of the past weeks has been positive and surgery has been avoided."Reuse content