John Isner of the United States and France's Nicolas Mahut ripped up the record books Wednesday as their sensational first-round match at Wimbledon became the longest in tennis history. The two players managed weary smiles when their unprecedented marathon match was called because of darkness for the second night in a row, tied at 59-59 in the fifth set.
Top-seeded Roger Federer earlier survived another tense early-round match when he overcame tricky Serbian qualifier Ilija Bozoljac 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-6 (5). By comparison, Federer had only a light workout.
The match between Isner and Mahut remained undecided after 10 hours of play, including 7 hours, 6 minutes in the fifth set alone. That was enough to break the full-match record of 6:33, set at the 2004 French Open.
Both players dominated with their serves. Isner had 98 aces and Mahut 95, both surpassing the previous record for the sport. After play resumed Wednesday at the start of the fifth set, there were no service breaks. "Nothing like this will ever happen again. Ever," Isner said. The drama drew an overflow crowd on Court 18, and others players watched the telecast in fascination.
"I have almost no words anymore watching this," Federer said. "It's beyond anything I've ever seen and could imagine. I don't know how their bodies must feel the next day, the next week, the next month. This is incredible tennis. For them to serve the aces they served and stay there mentally is a heroic effort."
Six-time champion Federer, who escaped from a two-set deficit in his opening match, had trouble putting Bozoljac away in their second-round match, converting only three of 13 break-point chances. "I wish they were straight sets, obviously," Federer said. "But as long as you're moving on, especially at Wimbledon, I'm a happy man."
Federer was never broken, won 75 percent of his service points, and committed only 13 unforced errors. He won the final three points of the match, one with a bold drop shot when trailing 5-4 in the tiebreaker. The defending champion, Federer seeks a record-tying seventh men's Wimbledon title. He has reached the final each of the past seven years.
Last year, he beat Andy Roddick, the three-time Wimbledon runner-up, in the final. Roddick dug himself out of an early hole to beat Michael Llodra 4-6, 6-4, 6-1, 7-6 (2) Wednesday. Seeded fifth, Roddick began playing serve and volley more as the match progressed, and he won 34 points at the net.
"That was as tough of a second round as there is," Roddick said. "I had to make an adjustment. Off of my serve, I had to start coming in and serving and volleying behind it."
Playing on Centre Court for the first time since his loss to Federer in last year's epic final, Roddick hit 25 aces, lost serve just once and committed only 11 unforced errors.
No. 3-seeded Novak Djokovic beat American Taylor Dent 7-6 (5), 6-1, 6-4. Dent served at up to 148 mph but lost 25 of 54 points at the net.
Five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams lost only 11 points on her serve and beat Ekaterina Makarova 6-0, 6-4. Williams is seeded second behind her sister Serena, who won when they met in last year's final.
Justine Henin was twice broken serving for the victory, then regrouped and beat Kristina Barrois 6-3, 7-5. Fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters defeated Karolina Sprem 6-3, 6-2.
Clijsters and Henin, both back at Wimbledon after coming out of retirement, could meet in the fourth round.
No. 15 Lleyton Hewitt, the 2002 champion, advanced when Evgeny Korolev retired trailing 6-4, 6-4, 3-0. American Mardy Fish had 30 aces but went 0-for-9 on break-point chances in the final set and lost to Florian Mayer 6-7 (2), 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.
The only seeded man to lose was No. 7 Nikolay Davydenko, beaten by Daniel Brands 7-6 (5), 7-6 (8), 6-1. Three seeded women lost: No. 13 Shahar Peer, No. 30 Yaroslava Shvedova and No. 33 Melanie Oudin. Peer was eliminated by Angelique Kerber 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. Oudin, who made a big splash by reaching the fourth round last year at age 17, lost to Jarmila Groth 6-4, 6-3.
Federer was three points from defeat Monday against Alejandro Falla, and he found himself two points from being forced to a fifth set against Bozoljac. Then Federer swept the final three points of the match, one with a bold drop shot when trailing 5-4 in the tiebreaker. The defending champion said he's unfazed to be tested so severely by lesser players.
"People maybe got a little bit spoiled and thought the early rounds are not even a competition any more," Federer said. "It just shows how deep the men's game is at the moment. People think they're all scared of me. I always think they actually play better matches against me because they have nothing to lose."
As for the Isner-Mahut match, Federer could only look on in amazement.
"As we know, we have no draws in tennis, so there will be a loser," Federer said. "But I guess in this match, both will be winners because this is just absolutely amazing." AP