It has admittedly been a few years since I’ve played tennis.
These days it’s primarily golf and an occasional softball game.
However, when I did play tennis what I remember most – other than trying really hard to get my first serve in – was the running involved. Even in high school and college I recall being pretty wiped after playing a competitive three-set match.
I haven’t thought much about that recently until the sports world briefly shifted its gaze from the soccer pitches of South Africa to Wimbledon the past two days.
While I make an effort to follow the Grand Slam events, John Isner and Nicolas Mahut are not names I would have recognized before yesterday. The idea that the pair played 138 games in one set for easily the longest tennis match in history points to not only their combined will to win but also was the sheer fitness required to play professional tennis.
This fact is easily overlooked by two factors.
First – and die-hard tennis fans don’t take this too hard – tennis is not near the top of the American sports fan’s psyche. Part of this is horrible scheduling; the Australian Open takes place literally halfway around the world around the same time as the Super Bowl and the U.S. Open happens as college football and the NFL are launching into full bloom.
Secondly, we are used to seeing the most well-known players blow away their competition on a regular basis. It makes the 2008 Wimbledon final where Rafael Nadal ousted Roger Federer in five sets – with a 9-7 score in the fifth set – all the more impressive.
Federer was stunned and impressed.
“In some ways this is unheard of in our game and normally there are breaks in tennis matches, but John is barely moving but he is able to produce good serves when he has to,” he said. “It’s so impressive. They are going to be tired the next day, the next week, the next month. It was too much.”
Isner plays his second round match Friday.
A win there, too, well that might be just as impressive after what he has been through.