The Only Thing I Will Say About the Isner-Mahut Marathon

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(Previously in this vein, World Cup category.) Last summer my wife and I went to the Legg-Mason tennis tournament in DC, early in the week's play. By far the best part of seeing any pro tennis tournament in person is on the first couple of days, when you don't have to sit in the stadium seeing matches from a distance but can wander around the side courts and see players from a few feet away.

At one of the practice courts, I saw what seemed to be an absolute giant warming up with a partner. It was Isner, whom at that point I'd never heard of, and some also very tall Eastern Europe person. I was able to stand directly behind the fencing -- that is, 20 feet behind Isner's opponent as he waited behind the baseline to deal with Isner's incredible serve. On TV it is really hard to get an idea of the velocities, reflexes, and different-from-the-rest-of-us skills of top-level athletes. I watched Isner wallop serves for about an hour and was amazed that anyone could touch any of them. He is said to be 6'9" but appeared to be about 11'2", hitting serves more or less straight down. Here is pretty much how it looked.

john-isner.jpg

Ten hours' worth (and counting....). Wow. No larger point.

James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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