Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The longest point in pro-tennis and the longest match

You'd think the longest match in tennis would be some kind of memorable classic, right? Well, wrong. A not-altogether-unintentionally hilarious NYT piece:

Twenty-five years ago, on Sept. 24, 1984, Nelson and Jean Hepner, who were ranked No. 93 and No. 172 in the world, engaged in a 29-minute, 643-shot rally that remains the longest point played in a professional tennis match.

For comparison, during a match last month, Andy Murray and Julien Benneteau had a rally that lasted 53 shots, and it was the longest either of them could remember playing in competition.

The rally between Nelson and Hepner occurred in the first round of the $50,000 Virginia Slims-sponsored Ginny tournament at the Raintree Swim and Racquet Club in Richmond, Va., with Nelson finally prevailing, 6-4, 7-6 (11).

The 6-hour-31-minute marathon was itself the longest match in tennis history for nearly 20 years and remains the longest match completed on a single day.
And then some great lines:
Both Nelson and Hepner seem vaguely embarrassed that their names are in the record books.
Er, yes - I would be too!

The rally that put Nelson-Dunbar and Hepner in the record books came at set point for Hepner, who was ahead, 11-10, in the second-set tie breaker, which lasted 1:47 on its own.

“There was tons of lobbing,” Nelson-Dunbar said. “I would try to come in and she’d lob me again.”

After winning the point, Nelson-Dunbar collapsed with cramps in her legs. The chair umpire, who apparently maintained consciousness throughout the 643-stroke point, actually called a time-violation warning, but Nelson-Dunbar pulled it together and got back to the baseline to begin the next point.

How does a point go on for 29 minutes before one player or the other hits a winner or makes a mistake?

“We were both pretty much standing on the baseline lobbing,” Nelson-Dunbar said.

Hepner recalled, “I was just really concentrating and was very consistent.”

Two points later, Nelson-Dunbar closed out the match and apologized to the lines officials for its length.

“I felt so bad for them,” she said. “They were sitting out there so long, and they must have been falling asleep.”
But imagine this...
Among the astonishing elements to the match was this: If Hepner had won the epic rally, she would have forced a third set, and who knows how long the match might have lasted.

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