Friday, 25 June 2010

Stretching a tennis record

My father left me two lasting legacies: a love of reading and a love of music. From young, the radio and records, books, magazines and newspapers have always been my constant companions. Unfortunately in the past 10 years or so, I had not been able to indulge myself with reading. Not until the past five months or so. Now, I do find myself enjoying my reading again because I have more time. at hand

In my teenaged years, I used to pour over the newspapers every day. Maybe not every page of a newspaper (definitely not the classifieds or the shipping pages) but yes, I did read them. They helped to broaden my general knowledge of the world around me. Of course, it's almost impossible to remember anything of what I read so long ago but curiously enough, when this year's Wimbledon tennis grand slam tournament began some five days ago, a little bit of forgotten trivia popped up in my mind.

I can't remember where I read it -- could be the New Straits Times or The Malay Mail or The Straits Echo or The Eastern Sun or The Star -- but there was a picture showing two players slugging it out at Wimbledon 1969 (actual date of play was 26 Jun 1969, I believe) with a caption saying that Pancho Gonzales had beaten Charlie Pasarell in a marathon match that went to 112 games and lasted more than five hours. It's true, there was such a picture in one of our local newspapers then. I won't say anything more about this historical match because there's so much reference to it these few days.

Therefore, it was with more than a passing curiosity that I read in the online newspapers during the past two days of the herculean effort between John Isner and Nikolas Mahut at Wimbledon 2010, how their first-round match had surpassed all other tennis records in history (except one, which was the speed of the fastest serve). It was incredible how the two players had been unable to get the better of one another until 138 games had been contested in the fifth set. This special historical moment in world tennis has now become sports lore. I won't say anything more too because there's a lot written about this match now.

Anyway, when I plonked myself down in front of the television to watch the drama at Wimbledon 2010, I was at the same time surfing the Internet and visiting the Wimbledon website, especially their live update page. Quite surreal to see a first-round match from a distant Court 18 garnering so much world-wide interest and prominent coverage on one of the Astro sports channels.

I noticed that there was a delay of about 10 minutes in the tennis "live" telecast. I wondered why. Was Astro worried that one of the Williams sisters may make an unexpected appearance in the men's competition wearing one of her dresses like in Paris, and that would require an on-the-spot censoring? Or maybe, to blank out Maria Sharapova?

When the Isner-Mahut match was finally over, I had sent a text message to my friend Eric at about 11.45pm but the closing stages of this match was only shown over television at about 11.55pm. A bit of disappointment over the 10-minute delay, really. But it allowed me time to snap this picture from my TV set.  Their expressions spoke volumes. That's over-the-top John Isner (United States) towering over down-in-the-dumps Nikolas Mahut (France) and chair umpire Mohamed Lahyani (Morocco) who looked almost clueless about his own place in tennis history which most probably would be the seven hours-plus that he spent on the chair on the second day without going to the washroom. Real dedication to the game but obviously can only be at the eventual expense of his own health.

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