Isner wins abbreviated re-run of longest match in history

Monday, January 3, 2011

PERTH - John Isner won a re-run Monday of the longest tennis match ever played, defeating Frenchman Nicolas Mahut for a second time — but taking almost 10 hours less to get the job done at the Hopman Cup mixed teams event.

The first-round Wimbledon encounter between the pair lasted an historic 11 hours, five minutes, played over three days and ending in Isner’s favour 70-68 in the fifth set.

The pair put that red-letter meeting well into the past as they met in Group B at the eight-nation pre-Australian Open Hopman Cup.

Isner took the win in less than 90 minutes at the Burswood Dome. The pair who each tallied more than 100 aces in their epic for 216 overall, secured a more realistic 32 aggregate on the night.

Isner produced a 6-3, 7-6(5) victory to send the US through the tie with a 2-0 winning margin after compatriot Bethanie Mattek-Sands started the evening 3-6, 6-3, 6-1 over Kristina Mladenovic.

In the day session, Italy surprised 2010 finalists Britain 2-1 as Francesca Schiavone and Potito Starace rallied past Laura Robson and Andy Murray in the deciding mixed doubles.

Isner came out firing as both men opened their 2011 seasons, with the number 19 American immediately taking control against his 132nd-ranked opponent.

“We knew it wouldn’t go that long,” said Isner. “At least a third set would end in tiebreaker. It’s a lot of fun to play Nicolas, we’ve become really close friend. It’s great to share the court with him.

“I was lucky to finish in two sets, I got on top early in the first. In the second he picked up his game and I stayed the course with mine. When I needed to serve well, I did.”

Mattek-Sands, known for unconventional dressing - she wore basketball shoes and knee-high black socks - needed time to puzzle out her teenaged opponent, who is ranked 300 and won the French Open juniors in 2009.

“I had to make my own game plan as I went along,” said the American. “She came out crushing the ball. By the end of the second set I had switched and was coming in more.

“You have to stick with it. I finally found a hole in her game,” said the number 58 winner playing a pre-Australian Open event for the first time.

Italy’s reigning French Open women’s winner Schiavone and her partner recovered from repeated deficits to earn a 6-7 (1-7), 7-6 (8-6), 10-2 victory over Britain in a final-set match tiebreak in the deciding mixed doubles rubber.

Number 45 Starace lost to Murray 7-5, 6-1 in singles after Schiavone had beaten the 16-year-old Robson 7-5, 6-3.

Murray, who only arrived at the weekend from his training base in Miami, said he was feeling the oppressive conditions in western Australia at its 40 Celsius temperatures.

“It was just hot,” said the Scot. “I trained yesterday outdoors and maybe overdid it a little bit. I’m just trying to acclimatise as quickly as possible so I’ve got to get outdoors as much as I can.”

Robson was feeling poorly and was seen briefly by the doctor after losing the first set despite serving for it.

“In my singles it wasn’t because of the heat it was because I’ve been a bit ill for the last few days,” said the 16-year-old who spent December holidays in Mauritius to get acclimated to conditions.

“I’m pretty fine with the heat - it’s just a bit sweaty in there. While Andy was playing singles I had a bit of a nap, so then I was fine.”

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