If you consider yourself a tennis fan, you probably know how amazing it is when tennis matches go the distance. If you have ever watched a close 5 set match, you know how exciting and nerve-wracking watching such matches can be. You can see players becoming more nervous, the crowd becoming more involved, and rallies becoming longer and more intense. The match becomes almost a show, and sometimes you wish that it could go on forever.
And yet, if you’re not a big fan of tennis, any tennis match will feel like it is going on forever. If you’re not interested, watching a little yellow ball bouncing from one side to the other can get quite tedious. I get it. Nonetheless, you might still find yourself respecting (and even admiring) tennis players who can push the limits of the human body by playing for hours and hours.
While a tennis match could technically go on forever, the average tennis match lasts between 1 and 2 hours for 3-set matches and a little more for 5-set matches. Eventually, players get tired and start making silly mistakes, which leads to the victory of one of them. Still, some players have been able to play matches in which no player wanted to give in, and the match ended up lasting an extraordinary amount of time.
The longest tennis match ever happened in 2010, between John Isner and Nicholas Mahut in Wimbledon. It lasted 11 hours and 5 minutes, and it was played over a course of 3 days due to the lack of natural light. The match ended with Isner beating Mahut by 70 games to 68 in the 5th set.
It is by far the longest match ever, as the #2 match lasted “only” 6 hours and 43 minutes. Crazy, right? I get tired just thinking about it.
There were a few more matches that, across the years, ended up going the extra mile. Some of those will be forever remembered on the tennis books, so we wanted to give them a proper mention. Below, we’ll cover the Top 10 Longest Singles Tennis Matches Ever.
#10 – Radek Stepanek vs Ivo Karlovic, 2009 Davis Cup – 5:59 Hours
The tenth longest tennis match ever finished just under the 6-hour mark, lasting a total of 5 hours and 59 minutes. The match between Radek Stepanek and Ivo Karlovic happened during the semifinals of the 2019 Davis Cup between Czech Republic and Croatia. Stepanek won the match 6–7(5–7), 7–6(7–5), 7–6(8–6), 6–7(2–7), 16–14, and there were only 3 breaks of serve during the whole match.
It was in this match that the giant Ivo Karlovic established the world record for the most aces hit in a single match, with a total of 78 aces. When you think about it, that’s the equivalent of winning almost 20 games without having to hit a single shot. Props to Stepanek for staying in the match and managing to come out with the win. The match was played on clay, and a total of 493 points were played. Stepanek’s win helped the Czech Republic to reach the Davis Cup finals, where it lost to Spain.
Below you can see the match point of this match.
#9 – Harry Fritz vs Jorge Andrew, 1982 Davis Cup – 6:01 Hours
The 9th match in our list happened during a Davis Cup match between Canada and Venezuela 38 years ago. The match played between Harry Fritz (Canada) and Jorge Andrew (Venezuela) lasted 6 hours and 1 minute, beating the #10 match by only 2 minutes. The match was valid for the Sub-Zonal (qualification round) Semifinals of the Davis Cup, and it happened before tie-breaks were introduced to tennis. The final score was 16–14, 11–9, 9–11, 4–6, 11–9 (a total of 100 games played) in favor of Fritz.
Fritz’s win helped Canada to beat Venezuela by 4×1, taking Canada to the Inter-Zonal final where it lost to Paraguay by 4×1.
#8 – Horst Skoff vs Mats Wilander, 1989 Davis Cup – 6:04 Hours
Number 8 in the list was also a Davis Cup match, this time in a 1989 duel between Austria and Sweden. The quarterfinal match between Horst Skoff and Mats Wilander ended with a score of 6–7(5–7), 7–6(9–7), 1–6, 6–4, 9–7 in favor of Skoff, lasting a total of 6 hours and 4 minutes.
Skoff’s win was considered a big upset since he was ranked about 30 in the world at the time, while Wilander was one of the top 5 players in the world. Unfortunately for Austria, the heroic win by Skoff was not enough to defeat Sweden. In the end, Sweden defeated Austria by 3×2, and Sweden made it all the way to finals, losing to West Germany by 3×2.
That match was played on a clay court, and you can watch the matchpoint below.
#7 – Jose Luis Clerc vs John McEnroe, 1980 Davis Cup – 6:15 Hours
The 7th longest singles match of all-time happened in 1980 and it was the first of 3 marathons played by John McEnroe. The match happened in the finals of the Americas Inter-Zonal, played between Argentina and the United States. Argentina defeated the US by 4×1, propelled by Jose Luis Clerc’s win over McEnroe by 6–3, 6–2, 4–6, 14–12 – which lasted a total of 6 hours and 15 minutes.
This match also happened before tie-breaks were introduced, and it was also played on clay. Interestingly, this is the only match in the top 10 list in which only 4 sets were played. Since there were no tie-breaks, the 4th set went the distance, finishing with a 14-12 win by Clerc.
This was John McEnroe’s first-ever loss in a Davis Cup match. It happened in Argentina, where fans are wild and courts are very slow – which was McEnroe’s worst nightmare. Below is an old video of the matchpoint.
#6 – Boris Becker vs John McEnroe, 1987 Davis Cup – 6:21 Hours
Once again, McEnroe goes the distance. Once again, he comes up short. The #6 match in our list happened, once again, on a Davis Cup. The match played between tennis legends Boris Becker and John McEnroe lasted 6 hours and 21 minutes and ended with Becker’s win by 4–6, 15–13, 8–10, 6–2, 6–2.
This match happened during the relegation play-offs between the United States and Germany, which ended with a win by Germany by 3×2. Interestingly, there were a total of 3 5-set matches, and Boris Becker won 2 of them.
Even though the quality is not great, you can watch the matchpoint in the video below.
#5 – John McEnroe vs Mats Wilander, 1982 Davis Cup – 6:22 Hours
Third time is the charm. John McEnroe finally comes up on top, this time at his longest match ever. During the 1982 Davis Cup match between the United States and Sweden, John McEnroe defeated Mats Wilander in 6 hours and 22 minutes, with a final score of 9–7, 6–2, 15–17, 3–6, 8–6. As you can imagine, this match happened before tie-breaks were introduced in tennis matches.
This was one of the most nerve-wracking matches of all time since the overall tie was tied 2×2 in the quarterfinals. McEnroe and Wilander dueled like 2 gladiators until the end, and McEnroe came out on top. The United States grabbed some momentum and ended up going all the way to the end, defeating France in the finals by 4×1 and winning the title.
You can watch the matchpoint below.
#4 – Fabrice Santoro vs Arnaud Clement, 2004 French Open – 6:33 Hours
The first match in our list that did not happen during a Davis Cup tie happened at the French Open in 2004. Interestingly enough, the match was played between fellow Frenchmen Fabrice Santoro and Arnaud Clement. The “Magician” Santoro came out on top, defeating Clement by 6–4, 6–3, 6–7(5–7), 3–6, 16–14.
The match happened in the first round of the tournament, and Santoro went on to win another 5-set match afterward, before falling in the 3rd round. At the time, the duel became the longest tennis match ever played, a record that was held for 6 years. It is still, to this day, the longest match ever played in Roland Garros.
#3 – Kevin Anderson vs John Isner, 2018 Wimbledon – 6:36 Hours
The most recent match to make the list happened in the semifinals of the 2018 edition of Wimbledon, between big-servers Kevin Anderson and John Isner. The match lasted 6 hours and 36 minutes and ended with a win by the South-African Anderson by 7–6(8–6), 6–7(5–7), 6–7(9–11), 6–4, 26–24. This is the longest Grand Slam semifinal ever played.
Interestingly, both players played college tennis at the start of their careers. Anderson played for the University of Illinois, while Isner played for the University of Georgia. Anderson went on to the finals, losing to Novak Djokovic.
While this time Isner was not able to come out on top, he still reigns as the winner of the longest tennis match ever. And I think he will do so for a while.
Here is the match point of the match.
#2 – Leonardo Mayer vs Joao Souza, 2015 Davis Cup – 6:43 Hours
The second-longest match of all time happened in a Davis Cup match between long-time rivals Brazil and Argentina. In 2015, Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer defeated Brazil’s Joao Souza in 6 hours and 43 minutes, with a score of 7–6(7–4), 7–6(7–5), 5–7, 5–7, 15–13. This match is the longest match ever played on a clay court. It is also the longest Davis Cup singles match ever played.
The match was valid for the first round of the Davis Cup when Brazil was beating Argentina by 2×1. Mayer had 9 match points before he finally won the match. After his win, Federico Delbonis defeated Thomaz Bellucci, giving Argentina the win. Argentina went all the way to the semifinals, losing to Belgium by 3×2.
You can watch the matchpoint below.
#1 – John Isner vs Nicholas Mahut, 2010 Wimbledon – 11:05 Hours
And finally, sitting at the #1 position as the longest tennis match ever is the legendary 2010 Wimbledon match between John Isner and Nicholas Mahut. The match, valid for the first round of the main draw, began on June 22, 2010, on court 18 of the All-England Lawn Tennis Club. At the end of the fourth set, the match had to be stopped due to a lack of natural light. Play resumed the next day, but once again they had to stop due to no natural light. Finally, the match resumed and finished on June 24th, with Isner winning by a score of 6–4, 3–6, 6–7(7–9), 7–6(7–3), 70–68.
Yes, 70 games to 68 games in the final set. The fifth set by itself lasted 8 hours and 11 minutes, which would already beat the #2 match on this list. With a total of 183 games played, the whole match lasted 11 hours and 5 minutes, making it by far the longest tennis match ever played. Both players hit over 100 aces, which means that they both broke Karlovic’s record established on match #10.
With the win, Isner advanced to the second round, where he played Thiemo De Bakker. Isner was defeated in only 74 minutes and did not hit a single ace, with a score of 6×0, 6×3, 6×2. Clearly, the match against Mahut was too much for him. And well, I don’t blame him.
Some interesting facts about the match:
- When the 5th set was tied at 47/47, the scoreboard broke as it was not programmed to go beyond that point;
- Mahut spent the following 3 months after the match dealing with depression and a back injury;
- Mahut also wrote a book about the match;
- A total of 980 points were played;
- Players held serves for 168 consecutive games;
- Both players dueled again the following year in the first round of Wimbledon, but this time Isner won in 3 sets.
You can watch the video below and see a short summary of the match. Enjoy!
Summary of the 10 Longest Singles Tennis Matches Ever
|#10||Radek Stepanek||Ivo Karlovic||6–7(5–7), 7–6(7–5), 7–6(8–6), 6–7(2–7), 16–14||5 hours and 59 minutes||Davis Cup 2009|
|#9||Harry Fritz||Jorge Andrew||16–14, 11–9, 9–11, 4–6, 11–9||6 hours and 1 minute||Davis Cup 1982|
|#8||Horst Skoff||Mats Wilander||6–7(5–7), 7–6(9–7), 1–6, 6–4, 9–7||6 hours and 4 minutes||Davis Cup 1989|
|#7||Jose Luis Clerc||John McEnroe||6–3, 6–2, 4–6, 14–12||6 hours and 15 minutes||Davis Cup 1980|
|#6||Boris Becker||John McEnroe||4–6, 15–13, 8–10, 6–2, 6–2||6 hours and 21 minutes||Davis Cup 1987|
|#5||John McEnroe||Mats Wilander||9–7, 6–2, 15–17, 3–6, 8–6||6 hours and 22 minutes||Davis Cup 1982|
|#4||Fabrice Santoro||Arnaud Clement||6–4, 6–3, 6–7(5–7), 3–6, 16–14||6 hours and 33 minutes||French Open 2004|
|#3||Kevin Anderson||John Isner||7–6(8–6), 6–7(5–7), 6–7(9–11), 6–4, 26–24||6 hours and 36 minutes||Wimbledon 2018|
|#2||Leonardo Mayer||Joao Souza||7–6(7–4), 7–6(7–5), 5–7, 5–7, 15–13||6 hours and 43 minutes||Davis Cup 2015|
|#1||John Isner||Nicholas Mahut||6–4, 3–6, 6–7(7–9), 7–6(7–3), 70–68||11 hours and 5 minutes||Wimbledon 2010|
In 2019, Wimbledon introduced a new rule that establishes a tie-break will be played if players are tied at 12/12 in the fifth set. The new rule was applied for the first time in the finals of 2019 when Djokovic beat Federer 13×12 in the final set. Many people say that the final could have entered the top 10 longest tennis matches ever – if it weren’t for the new rule.
With the adoption of the new rule and the changes in the Davis Cup format (3 sets instead of 5), it becomes increasingly unlikely that the records above will be broken. Currently, the only tournament that does not have a tie-break in the fifth set is the French Open, but we might see that change sometime soon. If that’s the case, it is very unlikely that someone will ever beat the historic Isner x Mahut match.