Wimbledon - Mahut handed Isner re-match

Fri, 17 Jun 10:34:00 2011

John Isner and Nicolas Mahut have been drawn against each other in the first round for Wimbledon, which begins on Monday.

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American Isner and Frenchman Mahut set the record for the longest tennis match in history when they met in the first round 12 months ago at the All England Club.

The 23rd seed Isner eventually triumphed 11 hours and five minutes later, beating wildcard Mahut 6–4 3–6 6–7(7) 7–6(3) 70–68 over the course of three days.

The match began at just after six o'clock on Tuesday evening, with play continuing for almost three hours before being suspended due to bad light.

The players resumed at 2pm the next day, and played right through until ten past nine in the evening when it was suspended once again at 59 games all in the fifth set, with the conclusion taking place on the Thursday with a final one hour and five minutes of play before the American won thanks to a forehand right on the line followed by a backhand passing shot.

The match broke every endurance record in the sport: the longest match, the greatest number of games (183), the greatest number of aces in a match (216) and the longest set ever played (eight hours 11 minutes). That fifth set alone would have been the longest match in tennis history all on its own.

World number one Rafael Nadal will open the defence of his title against American Michael Russell and has been drawn in the other half of the draw to Roger Federer, raising the possibility of another final between the great rivals.

Six-times champion Federer, the third seed, starts his campaign against Kazakhstan's Mikhail Kukushkin, and has been drawn in the same half as world number two Novak Djokovic whose 41-match winning streak was broken by the Swiss this month.

The Serb could face Federer in the last four, weeks after the former world number one beat him in the French Open semi-finals to inflict his first defeat of the year.

Had Djokovic won that match, he would have ousted Nadal from the number one spot but instead the Spaniard arrives at the All England Club with his top ranking in tact as he seeks a third Wimbledon crown.

Djokovic takes on France's Jeremy Chardy in the first round, while Nadal's potential semi-final opponent Andy Murray opens his campaign against Spaniard Daniel Gimeno-Traver.

Home favourite Murray, the fourth seed, warmed up for the tournament with victory at the Queen's Club grasscourt event, heightening public expectations of a first British men's Grand Slam champion since 1936.

"Isner vs Mahut drawing each other in the first round after last year is the most amazing thing I've seen in tennis!" Murray tweeted.

In the women's singles, champion Serena Williams was drawn in the opposite side of the draw to her sister and five-times champion Venus but in the same half as world number one Caroline Wozniacki and another pre-tournament favourite Maria Sharapova.

Serena, seeded seventh after being sidelined for almost a year because of life-threatening blood clots on a lung as well as a foot injury, takes on France's Aravane Rezai in the first round of what could be a tricky draw for her.

Wozniacki, seeking a maiden grand slam title, has a straightforward-looking opening match against world number 107 Arantxa Parra Santonja but danger lurks in the shape of Sharapova.

The Russian 2004 champion, who reached the French Open semi-finals this month after returning to some of her best form after two years of struggling with a shoulder injury, is seeded fifth and could meet Wozniacki in the quarter-finals.

French Open champion Li Na of China, who became the first Asian player to win a grand slam title this month, is also in Serena's half of the draw and faces Russia's Alla Kudryavtseva in round one.

Venus, back from an injury layoff, could pose an early threat to last year's runner-up Vera Zvonareva and the American knows how to win from a lower seeding having triumphed in 2007 as the 23rd seed, the same as she is this time.

Reuters / Eurosport

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