LONDON, June 24, 2010 -- It all started quietly and without fanfare. But during three days and more than 11 hours of play, the Wimbledon match between Frenchman Nicolas Mahut and American John Isner became a record-breaking and fan-captivating battle.
The longest match in Grand Slam history ended today with a score of 70-68. Isner beat France's Nicolas Mahut in the fifth set of their record-breaking battle at Wimbledon.
"I can't describe it. It's a joke. If they're both fresh today, it could go on forever," top British seed Andy Murray told ABC News before today's match.
Murray beat Finland's Jarkko Nieminen today in front of Queen Elizabeth II. It was the Queen's first visit to Wimbledon in 33 years.
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 commenced on Wednesday afternoon, and resumed this afternoon.
The 6-foot-9-inch Isner towered over Mahut, but both 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-break in the decisive fifth set; players must win by two games.
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 held by the 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 the game into overdrive.
At one moment, Mahut dove for the ball, eliciting expressions of disbelief from the announcers.
"Unbelievable," one announcer proclaimed. "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 painful to watch.
""It was a bit painful to watch him out there struggling at the end," Karen Isner told ABC News. "I really sort of wanted him off the court at one point, but he didn't want to be off the court until he won."
A Historical Match
At 9:10 p.m. Wednesday, after exactly 10 hours of play, 163 games, 1,000 points and several concerns 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 has broken Grand Slam records for the most games in the fifth set, the most aces in a match and the longest match. And the end result is still unclear.
"We are just fighting like we've never fought before," Mahut told reporters after the match had been paused for a second time.
"Someone has to win, so we'll come back tomorrow to see who wins the match."