Returning home from the day job on Wednesday evening I settled down to watch on TV a quick tennis match on Wimbledon's court 18 between Nicholas Mahut of France and USA's John Isner. It soon became aparent that this was sporting endeavour at its best, reminiscent of the verses of the Donhead school song which usually seem slightly out of key, about sporting achievement on the field of battle.
Frankly I thought John Isner was so exhausted that he would collapse. When he failed to collapse I was sure he would be unable to carry on the next day - yet he did and won too. The light issue was reasonable to take at 9pm when the scores were again level pegging. The view at 9pm from our window down the road in SW19 seemed light enough and John Isner indicated that he was prepared to continue despite appearing the more tired of the two. I would have collapsed hours previously light or no so could not fairly blame anyone for prefering to call it a day at that point. Anyway what about the umpires and other ancilliary staff?
Although I have also watched and enjoyed some of the World Cup football matches being played by the greatest footballing nations on the planet during Wimbledon fortnight, those two men in their 70-68 match gave a real lesson in sport whereas sometimes the effects of money and selfcentredness become too obvious in football.
BBC's McEnroe commentating was excellent though his expressed preference for tie breakers in the 5th set much as they apply in the USA was thankfully not accepted by Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Club stewards who decided that the drama of the two players extending their game minds and bodies to their limits is more important not least to spectators who are paying good money for their tennis tickets, than pandering to TV scheduling - I agree.
Obviously there are health and safety issues which McEnroe did try dispassionately address too but so there are in 'ordinary' marathon running, motor racing, mountaineering and so on, yet men and women continue to test themselves to the limit in taking these risks and in so doing, in my view sometimes cause the whole human race to move on a little in their wake albeit imperceptibly. The one minute mile, climbing Mount Everest or reaching the North Pole for the first time or sailing round the globe single handedly. Nicholas Mahut and John Isner's achievement is up there with the best of them; congrats.