Right, sorry folks, I know I should be finishing off the last story, let alone telling you about my sailing holiday and a load of other things in between, but, as is often the way with blogging, something else has cropped up.
I am a big Wimbledon fan and I've been battling with the TV remote control, flicking desperately from England's paultry achievements in the World Cup to the antics on the grass courts in south west London. Why does good sport, like buses, all come at once? (as well as the busiest time of year at school which makes ANY telly goggling an achievement). Anyway, I just had to tell you about the most extraordinary match that has been going on over the last two days. Yes, two days. They had to stop it last night due to lack of light. It re-started this afternoon in the expectation it would be soon over (they were into the last set), but that last deciding set, where no tie-breaks are allowed, has just gone on, and on, and on, and on....we are currently at 59 games all in the fifth and final set which (with extraordinary mathematical ability, ahem!) I can compute as 118 games in the last set alone. The match has broken every record going: longest ever match in the history of tennis, most aces (between them they've nearly topped 200), longest ever set, highest number ever of games in a set (and it's not over yet!), highest number of games in a match etc etc etc. They have been playing for 10 hours, for God's sake.
The American, John Isner, is the seeded player; Nicolas Mahut is a qualifier, though we've seen his tenacity in previous matches at Queens and Wimbledon. He looked the fresher player when they called a halt this evening - John Isner was pretty much on his knees (which is saying something given he's 6'9" tall - Mahut is a dwarf in comparison) but was still capable of smashing out ace after ace. There were very few rallies and those that were were short, but usually involving brilliant shots. There was no electronic eye for replays of dodgy line calls, yet there were no arguments either over any calls that the players clearly saw differently. It has been a match played in the best of sporting behaviour which has entertained, stunned and beggared belief.
Yet possibly the most surprising statistic is the fact that in nearly 7 hours neither player went off for a bathroom break - not even as a tactical move. Nor either the umpire, who was probably rather relieved at least to stretch his legs momentarily as he had to climb down from his chair to sort out the net chord instrument which had got hit during play. It seems testament to the players' remarkable focus - especially Mahut who served 57 times to stay in the match and has, so far, saved Match Point three times, usually with a stunning ace. Quite remarkable.
John McEnroe (who I love to bits) was saying in one breath how fantastic it was for tennis as a sport - that finally the players would get the kind of sporting respect they deserved for their endurance, athleticism, fitness, mental attitude, entertainment value etc - and in the next breath that they should really put a limit on the number of games that can be played in a deciding fifth set. But I feel he was rather arguing against himself. The whole point is that they have earned this respect from the extraordinary circumstances of this match - had the fifth set been played by the rules of sets 1 to 4, then the game would have been as ordinary as any other which has to end on a tie-break and the players would never have been given this opportunity to show the world what they, and the game of tennis, are made of.
It all starts again tomorrow. Will it all be over in a couple of games? We'll have to wait and see - and I suspect the result will lie with the player who has best been able to recover overnight from an absolutely extraordinary battle of physical skill and mental and emotional will-power, the like of which will probably never be seen again. France's national football squad (not to mention England's) could learn much from them.