When Marin Cilic and Sam Querrey walked on to No.2 Court just after 3pm on Saturday, few would have predicted they would have still been there after 9pm at night as darkness fell on SW19.
But the pair produced another marathon Wimbledon thriller to update the history books as Cilic eventually prevailed 7-6(6), 6-4, 6-7(2), 6-7(3), 17-15 in five hours and 31 minutes.
It may not have come close to John Isner’s 11 hour and five minute epic in 2010, but it was still the second longest men's singles match in the history of the Championships.
“It was complete drama, especially the fifth set,” said Cilic. “It was not easy. It was very windy and that made it more difficult. Sam was serving well and I was having trouble with the return of serve.
“You’re always thinking you are close but the game kept coming. You need to be focused not to miss any balls and it was a real mental battle.”
Queen’s winner Cilic will be kicking himself as to how he did not win this earlier than he did. Not only did the No. 16 seed claim the first two sets, he also served for the match at 6-5 in the final one.
The fact the Croat struggled to shut the door on Querrey was largely due to the heart and big-serving of the American, playing for the third day running after his contest with Milos Raonic ran from Thursday to Friday due to the weather.
It was a lightning start to the match for Querrey who broke in the very first game but Cilic was soon level at 4-4 before going on to take the tie-break 8-6, thanks to a double fault at set point from the American.
Querrey was not playing the big points well and succumbed again on his serve as Cilic broke for 3-2 before closing out to claim the set.
It seemed to be inevitable that Cilic would claim a straightforward straight sets win at this stage but Querrey came slowly back into the match and then dominated the tie-break as errors crept into the Croat’s game.
Cilic’s slip in standards continued in the fourth set as he double-faulted to hand Querrey a break but he soon re-established control. Once again the set went to a tie-break and once again Querrey was able to step up a gear, making it 2-2 with a strong service game.
With the pattern for the final set created by strong serving from both players, it took until the 11th game for a break, and it should have been a crucial one which left Cilic serving for a fourth-round place.
But Querrey has a huge heart and went for broke to peg things back to 6-6, breaking back to 15, and on we went.
With both men at the very top of their games, with incredible support from the crowd, it felt as if we would have another never-ending match on our hands.
Cilic had two break points at 14-14 but other than that it was set dominated by the serving of the two bravehearts.
Then, just as the light dimmed and we contemplated a Monday resumption, Cilic took his chance from 30-40 on the Querrey serve. This time there was to be no way back for spirited Querrey, despite an amazing 29-stroke rally at 30-30, and a relieved Cilic now has a Sunday rest day before facing Andy Murray.
“It was a fun match, but we did not even come close to what Mahut and Isner did,” conceded Querrey
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