A look back at the longest tennis matches of all time

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The city that never sleeps certainly lived up to its title on Thursday.

Quarter-final of Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner at the 2022 US Open did not end until 2:50 a.m. ET, marking the last finish in tournament history. Alcaraz eventually qualified for the semi-finals with a 6-3, 6-7(7), 6-7(0), 7-5, 6-3 win that lasted five hours and 15 minutes.

Although it set a new record for the US Open, it is still far from being the longest match in tennis history. Not even close, in fact.

What is the longest tennis match of all time?

The longest tennis match in history featured five sets, three days and a 138-point tiebreaker.

John Isner outlasted Nicolas Mahut in a first round match of the 2010 Wimbledon men’s singles tournament that lasted 11 hours and five minutes, breaking the record for longest match ever.

The two players shared the first four sets on the opening day of the match, which was halted due to a lack of natural light at the venue. On the second day of play, the scoreboard stopped working once Isner and Mahut got to 47-47 in the fifth set.

It wasn’t until day three that Isner finally took the lead. He held serve on the 137th point and broke serve on the deciding 138th point, giving him an unforgettable 6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 70-68 triumph.

Five longest tennis matches of all time

The Isner-Mahut marathon is almost as long as the next two longest tennis matches combined.

Here’s the full top five, including another long game with Isner at the All England Club:

1. John Isner vs Nicolas Mahut, 2010 Wimbledon: 11 hours, 5 minutes (over 3 days)

2. Tomáš Berdych and Lukáš Rosol against Stanislas Wawrinka and Marco Chiudinelli, Davis Cup 2013: 7 hours, 1 minute

3. Leonardo Mayer vs. João Souza, Davis Cup 2015: 6 hours, 43 minutes

4. Kevin Anderson vs. John Isner, 2018 Wimbledon: 6 hours, 36 minutes

5. Fabrice Santoro against Arnaud Clément, French Open 2004: 6 hours, 33 minutes (over 2 days)

Longest tennis match of each Grand Slam

While Wimbledon and the French Open have hosted three of the longest tennis matches of all time, the Australian Open and US Open also have extended competitions.

Both Grand Slams also saw their longest matches in the later stages of their respective tournaments. Had the Alcarez-Sinner quarterfinal lasted 15 minutes longer, it would have set a new US Open record for longest match.

Here are the longest men’s singles matches in the history of each Grand Slam:

  • Australian Open: 2012 Final, Novak Djokovic v Rafael Nadal – 5 hours, 53 minutes
  • French Open: 2004 first round, Fabrice Santoro v Arnaud Clément – 6 hours, 33 minutes
  • US Open: 1992 semi-final, Stefan Edberg vs. Michael Chang – 5 hours, 26 minutes
  • Wimbledon: 2010 first round, John Isner v Nicolas Mahut – 11 hours, 5 minutes

The longest women’s tennis match of all time

Given that women’s tennis matches are best-of-three sets versus best-of-five on the men’s side in Grand Slams, it would make sense for the longest women’s match to be significantly shorter than the men’s. While no match compares to Isner-Mahut, a 1984 bout between Vicki Nelson and Jean Hepner holds a unique place in history.

Nelson needed just two sets to beat Hepner in the first round at Central Fidelity Banks International, but the match still took a staggering and unmatched six hours and 31 minutes. Twenty-nine of those minutes came in a single rally.

Let me repeat: there was a 29 minutes rally.

The point featured 643 shots after Nelson eventually clinched the winner. That was the starting point for Hepner, who had led the second-set tiebreaker 11-10 initially. Nelson won the next two points and secured a hard-fought 6-4, 7-6 (13-11) win.

Nelson-Hepner held the record for the longest professional tennis match of any genre until the Santoro-Clément match at Roland Garros 20 years later. It also remains one of two women’s singles matches to eclipse five hours.

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