It is perhaps one of the most bizarre stories in the history of tennis. John Isner and Nicholas Mahut, two journeymen pros earning a mundane living on the gruelling ATP tour have booked for themselves a place in tennis history on the hallowed lawns of Wimbledon.
Till the end of the fourth set, it was just another, semi-gripping match on Court 18. Isner took the first set, 6-4. Mahut bagged the next two, 6-3, 7-6. Isner came back to even things out 7-6 in the fourth. Then began the battle of June 23, and it looks like it will carry on into June 24. At the time of going to press, Isner had fired down 79 aces and the fifth set was tied at 38 games each. The two have been on court for 7 hours and 17 minutes. They beat Pancho Gonzales and Charlie Paserall’s 6-hour-and-34-minute match in 1969 at Wimbledon.
Earlier, Belgian eighth seed Kim Clijsters stormed into the third round at Wimbledon with an impressive 6-3, 6-2 victory over Karolina Sprem on Wednesday.
Clijsters is playing at the All England Club for the first time in four years after a spell in retirement and she looks capable of emulating her semifinal appearance on that last visit in 2006.
The 27-year-old is a mother these days but she has lost none of her famed competitive streak, as she showed by winning the 2009 US Open as a wildcard in just her third event back on the women’s tour. Sprem, ranked 104th in the world, was no match for Clijsters and the former world number one was able to cruise through to a meeting with either Maria Kirilenko, the Russian 27th seed, or America’s Shenay Perry. Clijsters had won all four previous clashes with Sprem in straight sets, losing just 14 games in the process, and it took her just one hour and 13mts to finish off Sprem.
Clijsters, who faces Justine Henin in the fourth round, insisted the match had been harder than it seemed, but she was happy to admit she is starting to dream about winning Wimbledon for the first time. “The score was a lot easier than it was to play. I had to work extremely hard but I was consistent and that was the most important thing,” she said.
Justine Henin advanced to the third round at Wimbledon by beating Kristina Barrois 6-3, 7-5. Playing the first match of Wednesday on Court 2, Henin built leads of 4-1 in the first set and 5-1 in the second but struggled to close out the win. Serving at 5-2, she double-faulted on consecutive points and lost the game, then lost serve again for 5-all. But Henin broke back and served out the victory at love. A seven-time Grand Slam champion, she is playing at Wimbledon for the first time since 2007.