défaite française

…mais victoire américaine!
let us turn off our fantastical minds for a moment and spend a day with reality.
the world’s eyes might be focused on the world cup in south africa, but other sporting events don’t just cease. today, wimbledon history was made after american john isner defeated france’s nicolas mahut. what’s so amazing about that? well, the time it took for that victory to occur.
for those who don’t know much about tennis, it is necessary to skim over the meanings of games, sets, and matches. a match (the winner) is determined by which player won the most sets. the player who wins the best out of 3 or 5 sets (depending on the level on competition) wins the match. isner won the first set. mahut won the second and third. isner picked up the fourth. so it all came down to a final set. and this is where things got interesting.

a set in tennis is composed of games. one player serves the ball; the next player will serve the ball in the next game. points are seemingly sporadic as your score increases thus: love, 15, 30, 40. to win a game, a player need to score one point beyond 40. however, a player also needs to score two more points than their opponent. if the score stands 40-30 (the server’s score always goes first), and the server makes the next point, the game is over. if the score is “40 all” (both players have 40), and the server scores, the score is referred to as “ad in” (advantage for the server). only after scoring a point beyond “ad in,” can the server be declared the winner of a game.

likewise, players need to win two more games than their opponent to win a set.  if you win six games and your opponent has won none, congratulations, you’ve won the set.  if your opponent has won five games, however, you need to win seven to win the set, so you have two up on your opponent.  in wimbledon (and many other tennis events) if the score is 6-6, the players just play one more game as a tie-breaker.  this is true for all the sets except the last one.  the winning player in the last set must always have two more games up on the opponent.  this is what caused the wimbledon record.  isner beat mahut, to be sure, but it took him 138 games–over 11 hours of playing time–to do so.

the final score for the match (with isner’s points first) reads: 6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 70-68.

70-68. and as the guardian wrote, “that is not a typo.”

american john isner (far left) with french nicolas mahut (far right)
as they are told that play must be suspended
until the following day because of bad light.
the score stood at 59-59.
photo by the guardian

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