Breaking point

Damn the summer sporting scene. Daytime events just don’t fit into schedules of the working individual.

I, a sportswriter nonetheless, spent the morning at Starbucks sipping on a frappucino (Java Chip) while writing a story for a special high school sports summer section (concussions).*

*The job sure beats digging ditches, eh?

This, of course, meant no World Cup. This was the second time in a row I would miss the U.S. team’s match. I had already missed the coach’s son’s kick and the infamous referee from Mali. What more could I miss? It couldn’t get any worse than that, right?

At around 11 a.m., I received a text from fellow BrewHouse writer Rustin Dodd, bearing this message: Do you believe in miracles? YES!.

My response was acute: Damn it I missed the goal. I really need to start slacking more at work and watch more sports.

Quickly, I received a phone call and scheduled an interview for another story I was working on. Minutes later, Rustin called. He asked me if I had been watching Wimbledon, if I had been paying attention lately to the John Isner match.

The answer was a mild yes. As much as it pained me to miss Team USA play its last two matches, no sporting hurt caused by a work schedule stings as much as the type doled out during the summer Grand Slam schedule. The French Open and Wimbledon are nearly impossible to watch live. Nearly impossible.

Going into today, I knew about the Taylor Dent-Novak Djokovic match, Federer’s match against the qualifier and about Isner and Nicolas Mahut. I planned to check the scores on the Internet as I worked. That’s really all I could do in order to stay productive.

And then Rustin called. I told him I had checked the Isner score about an hour ago and saw that it was 11-10 in the fifth. I had already thought this score was both surprising and outstanding.

And then Rustin served up the ace. He said it was 27-27 in the fifth set.

I had two choices: stay at the coffee shop and refresh the scoring page every minute or go home and put work on the back burner for a little while.

I chose to speed home. And I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.

At first, the Isner-Mahut match played out like a moment of triumphant history happening live on TV. I made a sandwich and watched. Surely it would end soon but hopefully not too soon. I did want to watch some of it.

After a few minutes, it was 30-30. Then 33-33. And I began noticing something.

Isner really didn’t appear to be moving around the court well when he wasn’t serving. It wasn’t that he was dogging it, no, not at all. He’s 6-foot-9, and he was exhausted.

As for Mahut, he appeared to be in ridiculous shape, at a nearly perfect fitness level for a tennis player. He wasn’t going to tucker out, yet he couldn’t return Isner’s bullet serves.

This was an obvious conundrum. Neither player was going to get a break and thus the match would last forever.
I mentioned this to my roommate, Joe, who was at home eating lunch. Hearing this, he decided that we should change the channel and play FIFA. I agreed, but was then interrupted by a phone call from a source.

For 45 minutes, I discussed with him his time in the military, typing out the words furiously. They passed through my mind, and I comprehended them, but it sounded like Isner and Mahut were the ones talking. I couldn’t stop thinking about them.

But it had been 45 minutes. The match had already lasted longer than any in history by a hell of a lot. I know I made that comment about this match having the potential to literally last forever, but it was half in jest.

The score was 48-48 when I returned to the living room. I sat.

And sat.

And sat.

Sitting on the couch, I began to feel like my life was intertwined with this match and that everyone else who watched felt the same way. We had given up part of our day, given up productivity, given up time, and we had to see that our sacrifice would pay off in the form of seeing the end of a historical sporting event.

But it never ended.

It was pleasure, yet torture at the same time. It felt like we were all out there on Court 18, rewarded with the joy of tennis but punished with having to experience tennis and nothing else for eternity.

Normalcy, i.e. our job, our day, our families etc., couldn’t resume until this match ended, until one of the sweating men hit match point and that Rolex game clock on the side of the court stopped.

Around 3:45 p.m., this nearly happened. Isner had two break points and quite a few other opportunities on Mahut’s serve. There were only four break points in the entire fifth set, and here were two of them. This was it. This was perfect, right at dusk. Life could resume with still an hour left in the traditional working day.

But, as a Guardian blogger, Xan Brooks, put it, (and you must check out his hilarious live blog): “A tweet, a tweet from Mr. Andy Murray. “This,” he says, “is why tennis is one of the toughest sports in the world.” Thanks for that Andy: wise words indeed. Actually we were hoping you were tweeting to say when the angel was coming to rescue us all. Instead we get that. You sit comfortably, and eat your nice dinner, and spare us the tweets. Unless they’re about the angel, that is. We still have hopes for the angel. And ooh look, it’s 57-games all.”

Murray hadn’t invested himself in this match. He could eat his “comfortable dinner.” I had invested. The Guardian blogger had. Anyone who gave up their time to watch tennis had.

And while we watched, at least on TV, we didn’t quite notice that the dusk was turning into straight darkness. The game was tied at 59 when the two players approached the umpire.

Mahut wanted to postpone the match. Isner didn’t. The umpire seemed to want to play another two games (like that would help).

Mahut won. AND WE ALL LOST.

So now here I am, almost 11 at night. I wanted room for summer sports in my daily life but not like this. I can’t sleep. I can only think of awe and disgust but mainly awe about tennis.

And it will only increase. Closure hasn’t come yet and might not for a while. Isner and Mahut resume their marathon on Thursday, meaning daily life shifts back to Court 18 for a little while longer.

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