Depending on your proclivity towards the sport, hell or heaven is an interminable tennis rally, the ball moving from one end of the court to the other end till hell freezes over — or heaven takes on the heat of a Delhi summer. Wednesday’s Wimbledon match between the American John Isner and France’s Nicolas Mahut may not have been one never-ending tit-for-tat, but with the match spanning across 10 hours — it started at 9 am, was halted at 9 pm due to fading light — and spilling over to the next day, spectators were witness to a timescale more geological than human.
Let’s put it in context. A day of Test match cricket usually lasts six hours, with three two-hour sessions with a 40-minute lunch break and a 20-minute tea break. In Wednesday’s tennis match, the two players, having to expend significantly more energy and sweat than even the most restless cricketer, laboured on for a result with incremental breaks between each change of court ends as a ‘break’. If Isner and Mahut wished to take a flight from Heathrow Airport, they could have reached New Delhi airport, inclusive of the time for check-in and other time-consuming niceties. They didn’t. Instead, they played gruelling, gladiatorial tennis.
When the match did end on Thursday on Court No. 18, there was something end-of-an-era about it. Till now, the passage of time was measured either by planetary orbits or the lives of sub-atomic particles. After the two-day tennis match in Wimbledon, tennis also became a way of marking time. Who won the match, you ask? We ask you back: did the match really finish?