IT’S official; the days of the tennis marathon are over. 

Who can forget the John Isner – Nicolas Mahut epic? The Wimbledon first round match in 2010 that spanned three days, over eleven hours and left both men on their knees at the end of what was the longest tennis match ever played, has never been surpassed and now, never will. 

The final alone set between Isner and Mahut lasted over eight hours, and was finally won 70-68 by Isner, with the match being nicknamed “the endless match”. 

For anyone watching, it certainly felt like that. 

It is not only the Isner-Mahut game that sticks in the memory, though. 

There was Roger Federer’s 16-14 finals set defeat of Andy Roddick in the 2009 Wimbledon final. 

Venus Williams’ 9-7 in the third set win over Lindsay Davenport in 2005. 

And Rafa Nadal’s 9-7 in the fifth defeat of Federer in the 2008 Wimbledon final, which is considered by many as the greatest match ever played. 

We will never again witness this on a tennis court

The announcement this week that all four grand slam tournaments will now have a tiebreak at 6-6 in the final set was somewhat disheartening. 

One of the beauties of tennis, although admittedly, also one of the drawbacks too, is its unpredictability. 

When that first ball is hit, no one has any idea whether it will be over within an hour, or still be going eleven hours later. 

There are, of course, challenges with a match lasting hours and hours, not least that the victor has almost no chance of winning their next round. 

This was something Wimbledon, in particular, addressed in recent years; following the 2018 tournament, after Isner – yes, him again – lost to Kevin Anderson 26-24 in the fifth set in over six-and-half-hours, the tournament decided action was needed, and introduced a tiebreak at 12-12 in the final set, which was, incidentally, tested out the very next year when Novak Djokovic sneaked past Federer in a deciding tiebreak to win the title 13-12 in the fifth. 

This change, however, meant all four grand slams employed different formats; the Australian Open had a ten point tiebreak at 6-6 in the final set, the US Open had a normal, seven point tiebreak, Wimbledon had a tiebreak at 12-12 and the French Open remained traditional, requiring the winner to be two games clear in the final set. 

So, the advantage of this change is there is now uniformity across the grand slams; no longer will there be confusion as to what exactly needs to be done to claim the win. 

And never-ending matches were hugely detrimental to both the player’s chances of progressing further, as well as wreaking havoc on the tournament’s schedule. 

However, there are also huge downsides to this change. 

While a ten-point tie-break is slightly more prolonged than the usual seven-point one, is it fair for a few points here and there to decide a match that could well have been slogged out for four or five hours, or even longer?  

And there seems something profoundly unfair about women having to change to solve a man’s problem. 

With women only playing best of three sets, a few more games in the final set has never been a problem. In fact, it’s always been the perfect climax to a hard-fought match. 

But now female players will have their final set curtailed in order to prevent men’s matches dragging on for days. 

That can’t be right. 

This system is, for now at least, only a trial, but it’s hard to imagine there will be any going back from it. 

And while there will, no doubt, be some classics played out under this format, the days of nine-, ten- or eleven-hour epics are well and truly over. 

And Another Thing


It’s long been known how difficult some top athletes find it to retire from sport. 

Some of their comebacks have been legendary; Michael Jordan, Lionel Messi, George Foreman and Mike Tyson are just a few of those who have found walking away from sport almost impossible. 

Few have back-pedalled on their retirement announcement quite as rapidly as Tom Brady, though.  

Only 40 days after one of the greatest NFL players ever revealed he was hanging up his helmet, he announced he had “unfinished business” and was making his return. 

The 44-year-old has rejoined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for what will be his 23rd season in the NFL and there are few better examples of the addictive qualities of elite sport than Brady’s return. 

For someone who has more money than he knows what to do with, seven Superbowl titles to his name and a wife and family at home, there were plenty of reasons for him to embrace retirement. 

However, as happens so often, the pull of top-level sport was just too great. 

These type of comebacks, though, rarely work out well. 

The dream, of course, is to add to one’s legacy and enhance one’s reputation even further. 

More often than not, though, these comebacks end up a disappointing anti-climax that add very little to the standing and stature of the individual. 

It remains to be seen if Brady can be one of the select few whose comeback can be deemed an unmitigated success. 

At the age of 44, it will be no mean feat if he can continue his incredible, record-breaking performances, particularly when, for a short time at least, he had decided his career was over. 

The odds are on his comeback being less than impressive. 

But if anyone can buck the trend and have an overwhelmingly successful comeback, it’s Brady.