Lahyani presides over longest match

Updated: June 24, 2010, 3:44 PM ET
Associated Press

WIMBLEDON, England -- The umpire who presided over the longest match in tennis history said Thursday he was so enthralled by the epic struggle that he never felt tired.

[+] EnlargeMohamed Lahyani
Pool/Getty ImagesMohamed Lahyani of Sweden spent 11 hours, 5 minutes over three days in the umpire's chair.

Mohamed Lahyani of Sweden spent 11 hours, 5 minutes over three days in the umpire's chair before declaring victory for John Isner over Nicolas Mahut in their first-round match. The fifth-set score was 70-68.

"I didn't get a chance to feel tired," Lahyani said. "I was gripped by the amazing match and my concentration stayed good. I owed that to the players. Their stamina was breathtaking and their behavior exceptional."

After the match, the 44-year-old Lahyani received a crystal bowl, a Wimbledon tie and silver cufflinks to mark the occasion, and the players were also given gifts. All three men posed by the scoreboard showing the final score: 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (3), 70-68.

"When you are so focused, and every point feels like a match point, you just don't even think about eating or needing the bathroom," said Lahyani, who lives in Spain. His comments were released in a statement by Wimbledon officials.

During the fifth set, the bulk of which was played Wednesday, Lahyani periodically massaged his neck or rolled it, folded his arms and stretched his legs out from the high chair after growing stiff from so much time on his perch. At one stage, his voice cracked, and he cleared his throat to the amusement of the fans.

On Thursday, he acknowledged that his throat got dry but said he had since drunk "plenty" and that he felt fine after the long stint a day earlier because he is accustomed to taking long airplane trips in economy class.

"Seven hours sitting still on court is nothing," said Lahyani, who praised the line judges and ball boys and girls for their perseverance.

The longest match that he officiated previously lasted 5½ hours.

"It has been quite amazing to be involved with such an extraordinary match," Lahyani said. "I can't imagine seeing another one like it in my lifetime."


Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press