Das längste Tennismatch aller Zeiten im Guardian-Zombie-Cut

Nicht nur die sportliche Leistung von Nicolas Mahut und John Isner in Wimbledon in den vergangenen drei Tagen verdient Anerkennung, auch das Live-Blog des Guardian, das Xan Brooks und Paolo Bandini am Mittwoch und Donnerstag geführt haben, ist eine Höchstleistung. Pulitzerpreisvedächtig, das hätte ich gerne als Hörbuch! Hier meine völlig subjektiven Highlights:

Es fängt ganz harmlos an mit der lapidaren Feststellung “Nicolas Mahut and big-serving John Isner are locked at two sets all on Court 18.” Dann folgt ein großes Wort, das im Nachhinein noch völlig unangebracht scheint: “Nicolas Mahut and John Isner are locked in a marathon at 5-5 in the final set.”

Das Spiel nimmt seinen Lauf: “The drama has now moved, lock, stock and barrel, to Court 18. There John Isner and Nicolas Mahut are locked in a deadlock that shows no sign of ending. The pair are tied at 15 games all in the final set of a mountainous struggle.”

Und dann gehts richtig los: “The Isner-Mahut battle is a bizarre mix of the gripping and the deadly dull. It’s tennis’s equivalent of Waiting For Godot, in which two lowly journeymen comedians are forced to remain on an outside court until hell freezes over and the sun falls from the sky. Isner and Mahut are dying a thousand deaths out there on Court 18 and yet nobody cares, because they’re watching the football.”

“On and on they go. Soon they will sprout beards and their hair will grow down their backs, and their tennis whites will yellow and then rot off their bodies. […] Finally, I suppose, one of them will die.”

“None of this means a thing to the Everlasting Zombie Tennis Players on Court 18. They hear nothing but the thud of the ball off their racket and the sonorous tones of their Zombie Umpire. They can think of nothing beyond their next trudge to the chair for a short sit down before the ordeal begins again anew. They have forgotten all about Wimbledon and the world beyond the backstop. John Isner’s serving arm has fallen off. Nicolas Mahut’s head is loose and rolling bonelessly on his neck. And yet still they play on. The score is now 21-21 in the fifth and final set. This is now, officially, the longest final set in Wimbledon history.”

“Both men, as has been established, are now dead on their feet, although the Frenchman looks the marginally less rotten (a few less worms wriggling from his eye sockets).”

“4.50pm: It’s over. It’s finally over. It was a long, hard match and it took its toll on the players. But finally, at long last, we have a result. I’m actually talking about the football here. England win 1-0 against Slovenia to go through to the knock-out stage. The Isner-Mahut match is still ongoing: 24-24 in the final set. Isner’s leg has just dropped off.”

“Under the feet of John Isner and Nicolas Mahut, the grass is growing. Before long they will be playing in a jungle and when they sit down at the change of ends, a crocodile will come to menace them.”

“What happens if they just keep going? What happens if, from here on in, every single match at Wimbledon heads into a decider and then decides to stay there, with neither player ever reaching an advantage; with the scoreline simply sailing off the map and into the wide blue yonder? Do the stewards lock the gates and make us stay?”

“The score stands at 34-34. In order to stay upright and keep their strength, John Isner and Nicolas Mahut have now started eating members of the audience. They trudge back to the baseline, gnawing on thigh-bones and sucking intestines. They have decided that they will stay on Court 18 until every spectator is eaten.”

“I’m wondering if maybe an angel will come and set them free. Is this too much to ask? Just one slender angel, with white wings and a wise smile, to tell them that’s it’s all right, they have suffered enough and that they are now being recalled. The angel could hug them and kiss their brows and invite them to lay their rackets gently on the grass. And then they could all ascend to heaven together. John Isner, Nicolas Mahut and the kind angel that saved them.”

“Still no sign of that angel either, the one that swore blind that she would come down and spirit the players off to Disneyland Paris where they could ride the Thunder Mountain rollercoaster forever and ever amen. I’m now starting to wonder if she really exists.”

“What’s going on here? Once, long ago, I think that this was a tennis match. I believe it was part of a wider tennis tournament, somewhere in south-west London […] It’s not that anymore and hasn’t been for a few hours now. I’m not quite sure what it is, but it is long and it’s horrifying and it’s very long to boot. Is it death? I think it might be death.”

“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.”

“Maybe we should just decide it on the number of aces struck? Give the game to Isner and then we can all crawl into our graves.”

“What happens if we steal their rackets? If we steal their rackets, the zombies can no longer hit their aces and thump their backhands and keep us all prisoner on Court 18. […] Who’s with me? Steal their rackets and then run for the tube.”

“It’s 56 games all and darkness is falling. This, needless to say, is not a good development, because everybody knows that zombies like the dark.”

“A tweet, a tweet from Mr Andy Murray. ‘This,’ he says, ‘is why tennis is one of the toughest sports in the world.’ Thanks for that Andy: wise words indeed. […] You sit comfortably, and eat your nice dinner, and spare us the tweets.”

“‘We want more! We want more!’ chant the survivors on Court 18. I’m taking this as proof that they have gone insane.”

” Last thoughts before I ring me a hearse. That was beyond tennis. I think it was even beyond survival, because there is a strong suggestion (soon to be confirmed by doctors) that John Isner actually expired at about the 20-20 mark, and Mahut went soon afterwards, and the remainder of the match was contested by Undead Zombies who ate the spectators during the change of ends (again, this is pending a police investigation).”

“I’m off tomorrow, possibly lying in a ditch somewhere. But the legend that is Paolo Bandino [sic!] will be here to cover the action. I’m back on Friday, by which time this contest will probably be into quadruple figures in the final set. We’ll simply pick it up and take it from there.”

Am zweiten Tag hat dann eben Paolo Bandini übernommen. Und in ähnlichem Stil weitergemacht: “The players’ undead corpes are expected on Court 18 at 3.30pm, at which point we’ll find out if we’re still dealing with old-school shambling zombies or if a night’s rest has allowed either to undergo a mid-noughties George Romero make-over, and can now run and scream and batter down doors.”

“You can’t imagine that either will go much further in this tournament after giving so much of themselves for this match, so really they might as well just split another 30 games or so just for kicks. Then again, Isner is expected to play in the men’s doubles with Sam Querrey sometime after 6pm, so perhaps not.”

“And so it resumes … Isner, leg reattached, knocks the ball to Mahut, racket still clutched firmly in cold, greying, hand. […] John McEnroe is up in the stands, wearing a baseball cap backwards, presumably to feign youthfulness. Children are always spared by the undead in the end.”

Danach erfolgt eine kurze Episode, in der tatsächlich die alte Frage aufkommt, ob Zombies denn rennen können oder nicht! Weiter im Text: “Worryingly, this match is falling back into a certain pattern. It goes something like this: Ace. Ace. Ace. Ace. *groan* Ace. Ace. Ace. Ace. *sip of Robinsons, nibble on human brains* Ace. Ace. Ace. Ace.”

“When, do you think, will the tennis club finally intervene and start charging Isner and Mahut for court time, just like us civilians […]. It is apparent that the two are intent on declaring squatter’s rights to the court soon.”

“More aces for Isner, more gentle groans from Mahut as the ball fizzes by him, detaching a small chunk of rotting flesh as it goes by.”

“I think you, I and anyone else who ever saw Shaun of the Dead knows the only way this is ending is ‘by removing the head or destroying the brain’ of both competitors. Winchester anyone?”

Und dann ist es ganz plötzlich vorbei. Und die (Tennis)Welt dreht sich weiter wie eine kleine gelbe Filzkugel mit ein wenig Spin. Nachlesen kann man die beiden Live-Blogs in voller Länge hier und hier. Dicke Props, so muss Sportjournalismus im Angesicht eines so ungewöhnlichen Events aussehen.

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