Published Thursday, June 24, 2010 | 12:55 p.m.
Updated Thursday, June 24, 2010 | 12:44 p.m.
LONDON — There were only two stories at Wimbledon today. Both of them monumental. One concerning a visitor. The other a match.
Her Majesty the Queen graced the grounds of The All England Club after 33 years — that was Silver Jubilee year on Finals day in 1977 when Britain’s Virginia Wade won the women’s singles.
The Royal Box became truly ‘Royal’ today as she watched Britain’s Andy Murray defeat Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen in straight sets.
Those lucky enough to be in the grounds today witnessed the most extraordinary scenes with the adoring crowds showing their appreciation for Her Majesty. There have been few occasions in the Club’s history that have provided the atmosphere here today.
Before the match, and straight after her walkabout, she attended a line-up of various players and past Champions who were in action when the Queen had last visited — namely Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova.
Then the top four ladies seeds — Serena and Venus Williams, Caroline Wozniacki and Jelena Jankovic were presented to her. Serena Williams had been practicing her curtsy all week, thinking she would be playing in front of the Queen on Centre. Her practice was not in vain, as it turned out.
Then the men were presented — Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Roddick.
After the Queen left the grounds everybody was able to concentrate on the story that was on the lips of just about everybody, tennis and non-tennis fan alike — the first-round match between American, John Isner and Nicola Mahut from France. It’s longest match in the history of tennis, being suspended last night at a mind-boggling 59-59 after 7 hours, 6 minutes of play in this final set.
Never before had a match enthralled and captivated so many; spectators, media and even players have been buzzing with excitement since yesterday’s historic fifth set.
When the match resumed, Mahut looked the fresher of the two. Isner looked leaden with his 245 pound frame as he paced around the court with his head down.
But appearances can be deceptive and the American traded blows with his opponent and aced his way out of tight spots. Both men kept up the high level of the previous evening as they confidently held serve.
The break came at 69-68 when Isner put away the final ball of the match after a total time of 11 hours, 5 minutes.
The feeling had always been that there would be no winner in this match — it would just be a case of who will be the first to crack. The Frenchman drew the short straw and the match was finally wrapped up — with a deafening standing ovation — at 70-68.
“As for history, it’s something Nic and I will share forever,” Isner said. “Not that I’ve said more than five words to the guy before this match.”
Well, history it certainly was: longest match ever played in tennis history; most games in a match; most aces served in a match; most games in a set; longest set ever.
“It was only when I got back to the locker room yesterday evening that I realized how much worldwide attention there was on the match,” Isner said. “This will never happen again.”
He’s dead right.
James Borg has reported on the Wimbledon Championships the last 30 years. He has worked in Las Vegas and regularly writes travel articles about the area. He lives in London.