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Isner vs. Mahut: The Aggressive Margin

June 25, 2010

You guys remember the “Aggressive Margin“,  yes?  Well  like you, I was curious to apply it to the Isner/Mahut match, to see what it looked like.  Here it is:

Longest Match Ever Played Mahut (FRA) Isner (USA)
1st Serve % 328 of 489 = 67 % 361 of 491 = 74 %
Aces 103 112
Double Faults 21 10
Unforced Errors 39 52
Winning % on 1st Serve 284 of 328 = 87 % 292 of 361 = 81 %
Winning % on 2nd Serve 101 of 161 = 63 % 82 of 130 = 63 %
Winners 244 246
Receiving Points Won 117 of 501 = 23 % 104 of 510 = 20 %
Break Point Conversions 1 of 3 = 33 % 2 of 14 = 14 %
Net Approaches 111 of 155 = 72 % 97 of 144 = 67 %
Total Points Won 502 478
Fastest Serve Speed 128 MPH 143 MPH
Average 1st Serve Speed 118 MPH 123 MPH
Average 2nd Serve Speed 101 MPH 112 MPH
Points gained by forcing errors 206 193
Winners 244 246
Aggressive Points 450 439
Aggressive Margin 411 387

Mahut had fewer unforced errors (good), more total points won (good), more points gained by forcing errors (good), and thus a higher “aggressive margin” (good); unfortunately, he still lost the match (bad)

Isner had two more winners than Mahut, and they must have been the forehand down the line at 30-30, and the backhand down the line on match point.  In other words, when Mahut was serving at 30-30, they were dead even on winners, and Mahut had the edge in every category that matters.  Not only that, but if you watched the match, you knew – knew beyond a shadow of a doubt – that Mahut was the better conditioned player.  He had a spring in his step right until the moment he watched Isner’s backhand pass out of reach on match point.

Mahut didn’t lose this match, Isner just took it from him.  That’s not opinion ladies & gentlemen, that is an undeniable fact.

I’m speechless.

Well, not quite.  I have one more thing to say about this: In response to everyone who asked, “Shouldn’t Wimbledon do something about this?  Shouldn’t they make some rule where something like this won’t happen again?”, I say, “What the fuck is wrong with you people?!”  Why wouldn’t you want to see this happen again?  This was incredible!  It was everything that we love about sports and competition and guts and grit and courage and endurance and sportsmanship and…goddamn…everything!  The reason we are talking about this, the reason the entire world tuned in to watch what would otherwise be an ordinary and insignificant first round match at Wimbledon is BECAUSE there are no 5th set tie-breakers at Wimbledon!  Try to imagine how much poorer we’d all be if there were a tie-breaker in the 5th.  We’d never know what these two men were capable of.  We’d never know what two human beings are capable of.  We still don’t know (for sure), because the match ended too soon!  They had plenty of fuel in the tank, and if Isner hadn’t capitalized on the narrowest of opportunities (which he arguably co-created with Mahut), the match could have gone on even longer!

I HOPE we see another match like this!  And we won’t if Wimbledon were to change the rules.  (Which they aren’t gonna do anyway, so this entire debate is moot, but still…)

However, you know as well as I do that Isner was right.  We’ll never see another match like that.  Ever!


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