Talking about the fitness what about this!! Wimbledon tennis epic ends in games (183 of them), set and match It was without doubt the most extraordinary, outlandish and terribly wearying tennis match in Wimbledon's 133-year history. Today, in the relative wilds of court No18, the American No23 seed John Isner finally defeated France's Nicolas Mahut in five sets, 6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 70-68. This is not a typo. The final set of Isner-Mahut, a first round match of stretch limo proportions, ran to a barely comprehensible 138 games (Their game itself stretched to 183). When Isner slotted the deciding point on an increasingly fevered and battle-hewn court he sounded the final note on a match that had begun three days previously. This year it took one day fewer for every English player present to exit the singles draw. As the umpire called the final score and a breathing-in-room-only crowd gasped its awed approval, Mahut could only hold his head in his hands, the first – and surely, in perpetuity, the only – player ever to discover how it feels to lose having played the equivalent of four whole matches in a single deciding set. Isner, a gangling six foot nine inch 25-year-old from North Carolina, was gracious in victory. "To share this with him was an absolute honour," he said of an opponent he described as "an absolute warrior". It was an experience that will also stay with those who watched, a spectators' marathon amid the blooming environs of the most fragrant summer sport. Wimbledon fortnight is generally a comfortingly staid draught of high summer hedonism, but this was something else for all concerned, the on-court equivalent of spending the entire two weeks with your head wedged inside a vat of strawberry and Pimms. The deciding set was a two-parter, set up by the extraordinary events of Wednesday night when, after 10 hours on court, Isner and Mahut retired all square at 59-59. Returning this afternoon the players found Court 18 gridlocked with spectators and media. Necks were craned on adjacent rooftops and the jabber of international news crews turned this most unassuming backwater into a muscular global news hub. A baseball-capped John McEnroe thrashed his way through the throng like the skipper of a sinking paddle-steamer (and ultimately saw a pair of Japanese tourists evicted in order to furnish him with a seat, for which the attendant stewards were favoured with autographs). Isner, understandably stiff, started with a creaking double fault and briefly the crowd drew breath, anticipating the bathos of a speedy collapse. But instead it rolled on. There were barks of laughter as the umpire read the score for the first time ("Isner leads by 60 games to 59"); 59-60 turned to 63-63. And so the mind began to wander. Why hadn't this kind of tortuous stalemate happened more often, particularly in an era of uniform super-fitness? Could this even be a glimpse into the future, a taste of some new extreme tennis reality? And on a more basic level, is tennis the only sport with this innate lacuna, a sport that could theoretically go on forever, a single match outlasting whole championships, an entire grasscourt season? In practice the players simply play on until one has established a two-game lead. Invariably this happens at something sensible, such as 9-7 or 13-11. Not here. By the time Isner struck his decisive backhand, there was above all a sense of relief after 11 hours and five minutes of play at the end of a heroically unyielding contest that broke all previous records for the longest match, the longest set and the most games played. Wimbledon will surely never see its like again.