Stats & Info: Nicolas Mahut
March, 17, 2012
By Kenton Wong | ESPN.com
AP Photo/Darron CummingsJohn Isner is seeking his first career Masters 1000 title. He'll have to beat Roger Federer to get itJohn Isner made a name for himself back in 2010 with his marathon match against Nicolas Mahut in the first round of Wimbledon, but what many forget is how much that match drained him. Isner won just five games in his second-round match that year against Thiemo de Bakker.
After Wimbledon, Isner went 14-9 and finished the year ranked 19th. Last year, Isner took home small titles at Winston-Salem and Newport, but only finished the year one spot higher in the rankings.
Isner is starting to win big matches this year, not just long ones. He beat third-ranked Roger Federer in Switzerland at Davis Cup and then knocked out Novak Djokovic Saturday in the semifinals of the BNP Paribas Open to reach his first career Masters 1000 final.
Isner is the first American to beat a reigning No. 1 since James Blake beat Roger Federer in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
The University of Georgia alum has played up to his competition in the past. Isner has faced both Federer and Rafael Nadal when they were No. 1 and although he lost both matches, he didn't go down in straight sets. Last year at the French Open, Isner went up two-sets-to-one in his first-round matchup against Nadal before falling in five sets.
Isner's first-serve is a huge threat when he's hitting it accurately. Saturday the 6'9" Isner got his first-serve in at a 74 percent clip and hit 20 aces to frustrate Djokovic. On the year he has 283 aces, second only to Canada's Milos Raonic (307).
Isner's service advantage was evident against Djokovic considering that both sets he won came in tiebreaks. In 13 tiebreaks in 2012, Isner has won all but two.
Isner's upset of Djokovic overshadowed the other semifinal at Indian Wells between Federer and Nadal.
In Sunday's final, which can be seen on ABC following the women's final at 2 ET, there is plenty at stake for both Federer and Isner. Federer will look to avenge his loss to Isner earlier this year and win his 19th career Masters 1000 title, which would tie Nadal for most all-time. Isner is looking to be the first American to win at Indian Wells since Andre Agassi in 2001.
Win or lose, Isner will make his debut in the Top 10 of the rankings Monday for the first time. A win though, would jump him to eighth in the rankings – ahead of Mardy Fish as the top-ranked American.
In only fitting fashion, they will meet for the first time since then in the first round of this year's Wimbledon.
This marks just the eighth time in the Open era (44 years) at Wimbledon that there will be a back-to-back repeat first-round match (player who won first match won second match five of past seven times).
While this provides some context, it doesn't do justice to the unlikely nature of this matchup occurring again.
After last year's marathon match, the probability that Isner and Mahut would draw each other in this year's Wimbledon first round -- given that they were both in the tournament and both unseeded -- is 0.7 percent, or seven in 1,000.
While this sequel will have a hard time living up to the hype, it is still fun to take a look back at last year's marathon.
Isner defeated Mahut 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (3), 70-68 to advance to the second round. In all, there were 183 total games, 215 combined aces and 112 aces by Isner, all ATP records.
The previous longest ATP match was 112 total games. There were 138 games played in the fifth set alone in last year's matchup. Before this match, no fifth set had ever gone longer then 40 games at a Grand Slam event.
Isner and Mahut (103) each had more than 100 aces in the match. In the previous 20 years, no two players combined had accounted for more than 100 aces in a single match, let alone one player accumulating that total.
The match took 11 hours and 5 minutes, played over three days. In 2009, the average length of a men's singles match at Wimbledon -- not including retirements and walkovers -- was about 39.4 games. Therefore, the Isner-Mahut match was about four and a half times as long as the average length of a men's singles match at Wimbledon.
How does this rate among other sports? If you took the average length of playoff games in each of the four major North American pro sports over the past five seasons and looked at "equivalent length" games to the Isner-Mahut match, you might be surprised at what you'd find.
The Isner-Mahut match was the equivalent of a 43-inning MLB playoff game, a 35-overtime NBA playoff game, a 15-overtime NFL playoff game and a 12-overtime NHL game. None of which has even come close to happening in the history of those leagues.