Thursday June 24th, 2010

WIMBLEDON, England-- SI.com caught up with Sports Illustrated senior writer Jon Wertheim after the conclusion of John Isner's 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (3), 70-68 win over Nicolas Mahut. The first-round battle took 11 hours, 5 minutes over three days -- the longest match in tennis history.

SI.com: What was the atmosphere like on Court 18 today? Wertheim: It was great. The Queen was here [at Center Court] and it was overshadowed by this. Part of you wished they would have moved Isner-Mahut to Center Court given how exceptional and extraordinary it was. But it was also on this intimate court in the back and people were six-deep, some standing on shoulders. You saw John McEnroe even begging for a spare seat. Everyone wanted to see it.

SI.com: Where were you sitting? Wertheim: My feet were on the ground. I was in the front row.

SI.com: How was the quality of the play? Wertheim: I was blown away by the players, especially Mahut. He was popping off the chair in changeovers and had plenty of spring in his legs. If you had just shown up and had not known anything, you would have never known these guys had played more than 150 games over the past two days. Toward the end it got a little patchy, but it was not this battle of attrition where guys could barely hold their rackets up. Isner spent about seven hours sleeping last night and Andy Roddick even made a food run for him. The trainers helped these guys get back on their feet. They definitely were not at full strength, but this wasn't Yuri Foreman at Yankee Stadium, either.

SI.com: What did you immediately take away from the result?

Wertheim: Well, it was great, heroic stuff. I mean we saw a guy serve like 65 times to stay in the match. Numerically, this will never happen again. Today is not the day to do it, but I think at another time it bares examining whether this benefits the sport in the long run.

SI.com: Where should this rank among the all-time matches in the sport? Wertheim: It's a different kind of classic. It's a first-round match and the quality of tennis was not Federer-Nadal. But I think when you distill sport to its essence, you want competition and heroism and guts, and I was pretty impressed. It was emotional.

SI.com: What happens now for Isner? Wertheim: Well, that's the funny thing. He plays Thiemo De Bakker of the Netherlands and De Bakker won his match 16-14 in the fifth set. De Bakker must have been thinking, "Oh, boy, I'm toast in the next round." In theory, Isner ought to be dead on his feet, but he serves 135 miles per hour. Who knows? The other guy played a lot of tennis and if you serve 135 on grass, you always have a chance.

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