Wimbledon stars excited by Isner-Mahut rematch

London: With the start of Wimbledon looming on Monday, there is only one topic creating a buzz among the players at the grass-court Grand Slam as John Isner and Nicolas Mahut prepare for a rematch of the longest match in tennis history.

As the tournament progresses the sport`s top stars will take centre-stage, with Rafael Nadal bidding to win the French Open and Wimbledon back to back for a third time, while Roger Federer hopes to equal Pete Sampras`s record of seven Wimbledon titles.

But for now it is a repeat of last year`s epic clash between two lesser lights that is the focus of attention at the All England Club.

When Isner, a relatively unknown American, levelled his first round match against French qualifier Mahut at two-sets all, no one could have predicted what would follow.

The battle of two big servers had begun on June 22 and it wouldn`t finish until two days later.

Court 18`s scoreboard broke at 47-47 as it wasn`t programmed to go any further and when Isner finally brought the remarkable saga to a close at 70-68 they had been playing for 11 hours and five minutes.

By then the two exhausted players had each served over 100 aces and set records for the longest match, the longest set, the most games in a match and the most games in a set.

Now they are set to do it all over again after a twist of fate paired them together in the first round at Wimbledon 12 months later.

Six-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer led the chorus of approval and admitted he was astonished to hear news of the re-match.

You`re like; `Is that really the draw?`. You really want to see in black and white," Federer said.

"I guess now it`s tricky because many people are going to expect something similar, which is basically impossible.

"But I think it`s great for tennis. It`s a great buzz. It was an amazing story last year.

"It gives Mahut a chance to redeem himself from last year. It will be followed very closely by the players.

"I remember I went on court when they were midway through the fifth set. I finished a tough four setter, came back and they were still going.

"The first sort of five hours nobody cared too much. It`s the next five that made the news. We were all glued to the television.

"It was something very special and unbelievable. We all know that. It`s nice that it`s possible in tennis."

Novak Djokovic, the second seed at this year`s Wimbledon, doesn`t expect quite such an epic encounter this time but he still plans to watch it given the chance.

"Everybody has been talking about that rematch," Djokovic said. "It`s really incredible that they are drawn to play in the first round again.

"I will definitely, if I have a chance, watch that match. It`s hard to believe that they go that far but who knows."

Women`s world number one Caroline Wozniacki added: "I was watching in the locker room and it was 28-28. Then I went to play and when I came back they were still playing.

"I was like, `I just played two sets doubles and they`re still playing? It`s ridiculous!`

"I hope for them that the match will be a little bit shorter this year."

Maria Sharapova, a former Wimbledon champion, described the tie as "a match made in heaven".

"I don`t think they`ve even played since. It`s amazing," Sharapova said.

"I think I had three courses to eat, had a nap and practiced and they were still playing. I think I even slept the whole night, woke up, and they were still on!"

Bureau Report

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