No one will soon forget the first round battle between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon 2010. The epic, which remains the longest game in tennis history, lasted 11 hours and five minutes in three days, from June 22nd to 24th. The chairman was the Swedish Mohamed Lahyani.
“The first day I started was nothing special. It was like a normal game. You had two sets all, it can happen. In Wimbledon you have many times a suspension due to darkness, because it’s late, “said Lahyani. “I wasn’t thinking of anything. The second day was when I started thinking in the middle of the game, “This is unbelievable”. ”
The length of the game became increasingly surprising with the passage of time on the second day, June 23rd. What was perhaps a bigger surprise for Lahyani was the phone call he received from his wife Mariam, who was in Tangier, Morocco, 15 minutes before going on the pitch to start the fifth set.
“My wife called me just before that day and said I just wanted to let you know that we have special news: ‘He’s a boy!'” Lahyani remembered the moment he found out they would have a child. “I said, ‘I’ll end my game. It will pass in an hour and then we will talk. It was incredible, and had been waiting for more than seven hours! “
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Mariam didn’t watch the game, so she didn’t realize that her husband was presiding over something historic.
“I couldn’t even sleep that night because it was too much,” said Lahyani. “Everyone was talking about records and many things. It was a special feeling. ”
Lahyani did not realize what the game would become. But it didn’t matter to him either – he’s proud to treat every game the same way.
“People always think about the ending, the ending, the ending. But it doesn’t have to be a final to be the best match. This was a first round game. I say to the young officials: “You have to treat every round the same way.” My best game was the first round. Don’t think the final should be your best, “said Lahyani.” You never know. The ending may be the simplest. Most of the toughest games are in the first round. You have to treat every game the same way, even if it’s field 18. It’s not just when you walk on the center field. Every game is important. ”
Lahyani is very proud that there was no discussion from either player over the three days. For that, the Swede gave credit to everyone around him.
“It was teamwork. They were the referees of the line, the ball children, everyone around the field did something special. I was saying to myself, as soon as a player bounced the ball, I said to myself, “Mohamed, concentrate. You don’t want to finish the game after so many hours and do something stupid,” Lahyani recalled. “I try to teach that to all my colleagues, the younger officials and everything else, you have to concentrate the whole game. I think that game is a special example. If you lose concentration for a split second, you could destroy the whole game. “
The moment of the game that stands out most came late on the second day, after Mahut hit an ace in the T to level the fifth set at 50-50. The crowd gave the players a standing ovation and Lahyani screamed: “Game, Mahut. 50 games All. Final set. ”
“When I said all 50 games, there was a standing ovation for what seemed like minutes. The players had to tell the crowd to calm down and I had to say: Thanks, thanks. It was like a wave, ”said Lahyani. “They applauded for a while, it was incredible. It’s a special memory, 50 games all. ”
After the game, Lahyani recalls that Isner asked him a funny question: “Mohamed, didn’t you go to the bathroom? Why?”
“I was so focused on the game, so I didn’t even have time to think about food, drinks, anything,” said Lahyani, who didn’t take a single bathroom break. “I said, ‘Mohamed is now just the game. Don’t think about the people around you. You could see so many people standing around the field, everyone was there cheering. It was one of the best atmospheres and the best feelings I have had in my career. ”