It all started quietly. But during three days and more than 11 hours of tennis, the Wimbledon match between Frenchman Nicolas Mahut and American John Isner became a record-breaking battle that captivated fans around the world.
"You would think at some point he would have crumbled. It was phenomenal," said Isner's coach, Scott Boynton."
Watch 'World News' for more on the record-setting match tonight on ABC.
At a press conference following today's victory, Isner said that Wednesday's marathon 10 hours of play left him "completely delirious" and struggling to explain how it even happened.
"When I left the match yesterday, I really thought it was a dream. I didn't think that type of match was possible," Isner told reporters.
Last night, Isner iced his arm and ate platefuls of food to recover, including take-out pizza and chicken delivered by tennis star Andy Roddick.
The 25-year-old Isner said that grueling training sessions in Florida's intense heat and humidity had prepared him for long play, and his coach even joked before the tournament that he'd be able to play 10 hours. But he never imagined that it would actually happen.
"In a way, I'm kind of glad it happened, although I am pretty tired," Isner said, though he promised to be ready to continue competing in the tournament.
Game Played Over 3 Days
The seemingly-ordinary first-round match between Isner and Mahut was suspended Tuesday evening for darkness after four sets.
The fifth set of the match began on Wednesday afternoon, and resumed again today.
The 6-foot-9-inch Isner towered over Mahut, and today Isner joked that his large size might have given him an advantage in endurance.
"I have a little excess in the stomach area, and I knew that was going to come in handy one day," he said, calling it a "reserve tank."
Grueling Match for Both Players
It was certainly a grueling game. Over the course of the match, it was estimated each player sprinted 24 miles and sweated upwards of 10 pounds of water. Ther body temperatures likely fluctuated from 95 degrees to 105 degrees. Isner himself said he had to consume 12 energy bars and gallons of water and energy drinks during the match.
The men equaled each other in skill and determination. From the start of Wednesday's play, Isner and Mahut traded aces — 193 aces in all.
The players were tied at two sets each. Wimbledon rules have no tie-breaker in the decisive fifth set; players must win by two games.
Breaks Record By Hours
After six hours and 33 minutes, Isner and Mahut set the record for the longest tennis match in Grand Slam history. The previous record was set in a 71-game match between Fabrice Santoro and Arnaud Clement at the French Open in 2004.
As the clock ticked on, the atmosphere at Court 18 became more electric. With the cheers of the crowd echoing across Wimbledon's grounds, the players kicked into overdrive.
At one point, Mahut dove for the ball, bringing expressions of disbelief from the announcers.
"Unbelievable," one announcer said. "The guy has not quit. He hasn't given up on one ball."
For Karen Isner, the mother of John Isner, the prolonged game was at times tough to watch.
""It was a bit painful to watch him out there struggling at the end," Karen Isner told ABC News. "He looked like he was stumbling, didn't know what was going on. Today he gave me looks, that were not good, not happy out there."
An Historic Match
At 9:10 p.m. Wednesday, after 10 hours of play, 163 games, 1,000 points and several expressions of concern about the health of the players, the chair umpire suspended the match for darkness.
Isner, exhausted but determined, acknowledged the historical significance of the game.
"Nothing like this will ever happen again, ever," Isner told reporters.
The game broke Grand Slam records for the most games in the fifth set, the most aces in a match and the longest match.
Today, it finally ended, but the game was about more than just winning.
"I guess it was just meant to be," Isner said after it was over. "Something Nick and I will share forever, really."