PARIS - This, then, is who John Isner is for now: The Marathon Man of Tennis, the guy who plays and plays and plays, for hours on end, until the last set seems interminable.
At Wimbledon two years ago, he won 70-68 in the fifth, the longest set and match in tennis history. At Roland Garros on Thursday, as afternoon gave way to evening, the 10th-seeded American lost 7-6 (2), 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 18-16 to Paul-Henri Mathieu of France in the second round, a 5-hour, 41-minute test of stamina and attention span.
This one goes in the books as the second-longest match, by time, in French Open history.
‘’I just didn’t get it done. I felt like I got caught in patterns that weren’t ideal for me,’’ said a somber Isner, whose exit means there are no U.S. men in the third round for the first time since 2007.
If the 6-foot-9 Isner, is going to become more than a novelty act, he needs to win encounters like Thursday’s, and not because of the duration but because it was a first-week Grand Slam match against a player ranked 261st who got into the field thanks to a wild-card invitation from the tournament.
After finally converting his seventh match point - Isner never had one - an emotional Mathieu thanked the partisan crowd in the main stadium for willing him to victory.
‘’I dug deep,’’ said the 30-year-old Mathieu, who hadn’t played in a major tournament since the 2010 U.S. Open because of a left knee injury that forced him off tour all of last year. ‘’I was away from the courts for quite a while, and I came back to live moments like this.’’