Big Three. Big ballers. Big scores. The 2010s were defined by giant-sized contents on the men's side, which we'll review over the next two weeks.
See the entire men's and women's lists here, and relive each match with our video retrospectives.
On June 23, 2010, people around the world watched their TVs as the sun set on Court 18 at Wimbledon, and the scores rose: 20–20, 30–30 (!), 40–40 (!!), 50–50 (!!!). Finally, the first-round match was suspended for darkness— for a second time. Had that ever happened before? Had anything like this ever happened before?
John Isner and Nicolas Mahut, as a plaque outside Court 18 now commemorates, were in the process of playing the longest match in history. Was it the best? Probably not—it was as much a death march as an athletic contest. But no other match has produced such gaudy numbers, and so many seemingly unbreakable records.
At 11 hours and five minutes, Isner-Mahut was four hours longer than the second-longest match. At 138 games, its fifth set alone was 26 games longer any other match. Isner hit 112 aces and Mahut hit 103; the next-highest total is Ivo Karlovic’s 78. Mahut served to stay alive 63 times.
But it isn’t just the numbers that made this first-round contest worth remembering. It was the fact that, over the course of a fifth set that went on for two days, neither man gave in. Isner-Mahut belongs on any list of the greatest tennis matches because, for a longer period of time than any other, it represented what’s at the heart of every match, and of every sport: The battle.