Glory in defeat at the end of a sporting marathon

AFTER 11 hours and five minutes, a staggering 181 games and two tie-breaks, the world's longest-ever tennis match finally came to a victorious and miserable end. For the winner, American John Isner, the joy and relief were all too obvious, as was the total dejection of the defeated Frenchman, Nicholas Mahut.

Not since Dorando was helped over the line at the end of the Olympic marathon in 1908 and subsequently disqualified has London witnessed such depths of sporting disappointment. And as with the exhausted Italian runner more than 100 years ago, the crowd took Mahut to their hearts.

Even though it was only a first- round match, and the gracious Isner is unlikely to win the tournament, these two men will go down as the protagonists of one of the greatest physical and psychological tussles in sporting history. To Ali v Frasier, Bradman v Larwood, Watson v Nicklaus and Borg v McEnroe can now be added Isner v Mahut.

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Fittingly, both players (and the umpire, who must surely now be attracting the attention of urologists after spending nine hours in the chair without a break) were given special trophies to mark their achievement.

Defeated he might have been, but Mahut left Wimbledon a champion and a role model for sportsmen and women everywhere.