Thursday, June 24, 2010
Seen and Heard: Izzy's Twitter followers
By Ravi Ubha, ESPN.com
• Just imagine what next Wimbledon will bring.
Two years ago, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal slugged it out in the best final of all time. Last year, the Swiss and Andy Roddick went to 16-14 in the fifth set. And Thursday, John Isner completed his marathon 70-68 victory over a spirited Nicolas Mahut in 11 hours, 5 minutes.
Actually, going by the world record, that's more than five marathons. Every tennis record, dealing with longevity, fell.
The scoreboard stopped working at one point Wednesday, only to be revived, while chair umpire Mohamed Lahyani's voice cracked periodically. He's a trooper, and like the players, held up.
How can we not devote an entire Seen & Heard to the match?
• Fractionally more than 12 hours after play was halted at 59-59 on Wednesday, Mahut hit the practice courts for an understandably light session.
His fitness trainer, Paul Quetin, couldn't have been more proud.
And here we thought Mahut couldn't outdo his 24-22 third-set win over Brit Alex Bogdanovic in qualifying.
"I'm proud of his attitude, his courage, his competitiveness," Quetin said at Wimbledon's premium practice venue. "He passed all the limits we thought. He's a model for all of us. It inspires us and gives confidence to all the players."
Mahut was inconsolable in the locker room when it ended. He sat, we're told, motionless for a while staring at a wall.
• Patrick McEnroe has gotten to know Isner pretty well, since he's the U.S. Davis Cup captain. He compared the North Carolina native to Joe Montana, having the ability to block everything out and produce at crunch time.
Isner lost a five-setter to Serb Novak Djokovic in the first round of the Davis Cup in March, on the court for a mere 4 hours, 16 minutes that day.
"He's got this uncanny ability, and I noticed it sitting on the bench in Davis Cup, to kind of weather storms and compete," said McEnroe, who's also an analyst for ESPN. "You can't teach that. Obviously he's a competitor and feisty. He's got kind of that X factor and is a gamer. He never gets too high or too low."
• Maria Sharapova will never go to a protracted fifth set, not unless the rules are changed, but she fully appreciated what transpired on Court 18.
"I'd be checking myself into the local hospital," Sharapova said after advancing in 1 hour, 24 minutes. "They've played way beyond whatever I've practiced [a] combined three or four days. I'm still not at nine hours."
• Andy Murray got his kicks playing in front of the queen. His second-round victory over usually pesky Finn Jarkko Nieminen lasted less than two hours.
His take on the Isner-Mahut match?
"It will never happen again -- unless they play next year, maybe," Murray said.
With some calling for a fifth-set tiebreaker at all the majors, given what happened, Murray said we should leave things as they are.
"I think the rules here are very good," Murray added. "They work well. It was a huge, huge story for everybody [Wednesday], and really good for the sport. So keep it as it is."
• Tennis journalist, historian and Hall of Famer Bud Collins said he's already in the midst of updating his most recent book, "The Bud Collins History of Tennis: An Authoritative Encyclopedia and Record Book." It'll be ready by the U.S. Open.
"The most popular word is unbelievable," Collins said. "But it was beyond unbelievable. Both players kept on going, and it was a great moment in the history of tennis. I myself would prefer a tiebreaker in the fifth set. But this had so much drama and the guys played so well that I don't believe we'll ever see it again."
• David Taylor, the Aussie coach of French Open finalist Samantha Stosur, planned to watch Australia face Serbia in the World Cup on Wednesday. Switching on the TV and seeing Isner's battle with Mahut, he couldn't change the channel.
"We were supposed to go out because Sam had a day off," Taylor said. "We thought we'd watch the [soccer], but then we turned the tennis on and then never left. How could you leave it, because you thought when you left it would finish."
• Rafael Nadal, who survived in five sets against Dutchman Robin Haase, had more than a passing interest in the tilt. He'll face either Isner or Dutchman Thiemo de Bakker in the third round.
"It was amazing," Rafa said in his news conference. "I congratulate both players because they did something amazing. To not lose serve all that time is amazing."
• Didn't Lahyani have to go to the bathroom Wednesday, when play topped more than seven hours?
"When you are so focused and every point feels like a match point you just don't even think about eating or needing the bathroom," Lahyani, who officiated the landmark match between Pete Sampras and Roger Federer at Wimbledon in 2001, said in a statement. "I travel economy. Seven hours sitting still on a court is nothing."
• From Andy Roddick on Twitter, after congratulating Isner:
"Mahut bad luck but still he is a champion."
Isner said he joined Twitter only three days ago and already has more followers than the Bryan brothers.