The Bizarre Story Of The World's Longest Tennis Match

Ever watch a tennis match, see the players lob balls back and forth, and think, "Wow, this could go on forever." Well, one match almost did. It was Wimbledon 2010. The tournament started and American John Isner and Frenchman Nicolas Mahut walked into Court 18. It's a first-round matchup between the current 23rd seed Isner and Mahut, qualified during the pre-tournament matches. What people assumed to be a run-of-the-mill first-round match then proved historic.

According to, there were long stretches of the match that weren't particularly exciting. But by the fourth set, with the sun starting to set, both players were still tied. The score reached 50 all and the scoreboard wasn't built to go beyond 47. Officials decided to suspend the match until the next day, since it was too dark to play. People began to pay attention to the game.

The second round then began the next day, in the same court. While other players like Roger Federer and eventual winner Rafael Nadal played their next round, Isner and Mahut were still on their first. The two started on the fifth set, but even this, explains ATP Tour, lasted eight hours. To win tennis matches, a player needs to score two above their opponent, but during this round, Isner and Mahut just kept trading serves. Radio Wimbledon reports Isner drank a recover shake while fellow American player Andy Roddick bought take-out and pizza. Isner later said he was so tired he could've eaten "12 Big Macs."

Shortened their careers by six months

For the second time, play had to be suspended due to darkness. On the third day, Isner and Mahut returned to court 18 and took up stances. It was still a tough game, but finally, Isner hit the winning serve, scoring 70 to Mahut's 68. According to, the match broke several records, clocking in at 11 hours, 5 minutes. It's also the highest score ever in tennis history.

The tournament organizers gave the two exhausted players special recognition. But remember, this was the first round. As the winner, Isner was meant to play the second round, scheduled that same day, but rescheduled to accommodate his first-round play. The grueling first round proved detrimental to Isner; he lost his second-round match to Thiemo de Bakker. ESPN reports other tennis greats were in awe of the two men, who later became friends.

It's unlikely you'll see anything like it again. Tennis legend John McEnroe told The Guardian the match may have shortened both Isner and Mahut's careers by six months (both still compete). Wimbledon also changed its rules to prevent extremely long games in the future. Tiebreaks are now played if the score in the final set ties at 12. The BBC said the rule was first used in the 2019 finals between Federer and Novak Djokovic.

So no, matches won't last forever. In the meantime, you can at least watch Isner and Mahut play for 11 hours on Youtube.