24 June 2010
This tennis match. This eleven-hour, more-than-a-hundred-game, longer-than-a-Test-match tennis match, that managed to obsess the entire British public apart from me.
Actually, because of work, and football, and those things, I didn’t see a minute of it. By the time I thought I might, Isner had broken Mahut’s serve at last. They’d gone off court with trophies for breaking every endurance record going, before any impresario could suggest they play on into a new kind of dance marathon for the next Depression.
(Isner and Mahut: I’d never seen a photograph of either man before the morning papers on day three. Their surnames make them disappointing in the flesh; they sound like duelling warrior hulks from Steven Erikson fantasies, the pair of them. Though Isner does stand at six feet nine inches tall.)
David Foster Wallace’s novel Infinite Jest imagined nearly every surreal thing that could go wrong among the professional tennis players of the near future. Mind-altering drugs. A corporate takeover of the US state whereby each calendar year is sponsored by a brand of groceries. The violence of a separatist insurgency waged from Quebec. The author of a Guardian sports liveblog, Xan Brooks, pictured the evening of the second Isner/Mahut day as a scene of zombie horror:
7.20pm: And so this match goes on and on, on and on. Somewhere along the way, the players have mislaid their names. The man who was once Mahut is now a string-bag of offal. The man who was Isner is a parched piece of cow-hide. The surviving members of the audience don’t seem to care who wins. They just cheer and applaud whoever looks likely to make a breakthrough and bring this nightmare to a close. Invariably they are disappointed.
The offal looks fresher, possesses a piercing backhand and still throws itself about the court on occasion. But the cow-hide can serve and has the advantage of going ahead by one game and forcing the offal to catch-up. This the offal is only too happy to do. It hits a backhand down the line and then follows that up with an ace, and the score now stands at 45 games apiece.
Zombies mashed up with Wimbledon seem to work better than zombies mashed up with Pride and Prejudice. We might regret saying that, of course.