Items from epic match going to Hall

Updated: June 30, 2010, 7:03 PM ET
Associated Press

Nicolas Mahut is starting to be recognized more back home in France, and he's being greeted in a most unusual way.

"People on the street congratulate me," he said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday, less than a week after he played in -- but lost -- the longest match in tennis history. "This is weird. Because for me, it's still painful and disappointing."

Mahut and John Isner captivated the sports world when their first-round match at Wimbledon lasted a record 11 hour, 5 minutes over three days. It was twice suspended because of darkness before Isner won it 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (3), 70-68; the 138-game set by itself would be the longest match ever.

"It stinks someone had to lose," Isner said moments after the match.

But someone did.

And it was Mahut.

"About the loss, people are thinking further than win and loss. It's more than that," he said of the well-wishers who are more interested in his place in history than he is -- for now, at least. "I need time. It's still really painful for me. But I think after a few weeks I will feel like we did something special, John and I."

Isner lost his second-round match in straight sets, then returned to the United States to throw out the first pitch at a New York Yankees game and read a Top Ten list on CBS' "Late Show with David Letterman." Mahut said he has done interviews for newspapers and TV shows in France, and French Sports Minister Roselyne Bachelot called to set up a meeting.

But mostly, he's been trying to relax.

"I feel like normal fatigue. Every time I finish, it's almost the same," he said. "But in the head I feel like I need some rest."

Mahut said the International Tennis Hall of Fame asked for a racket and shirt that he wore in the match; he will donate the well-worn equipment when he goes to the Newport, R.I., museum for next week's Hall of Fame Championships.

A 28-year-old grass-court specialist from west of Paris, Mahut grew up watching Pete Sampras dominate Wimbledon in the 1990s and is looking forward to seeing artifacts from his idol and other great tennis players at the hall. He never expected that anything of his would be among them.

"It's all the legends," he said. "I didn't do anything before this match."

Isner is also donating a signed racket from the match, hall spokeswoman Anne Marie McLaughlin said. Mahut will turn his over in a ceremony on Saturday, before the draw party for the only professional grass-court tournament in North America.

One thing Mahut won't have to worry about: Another marathon match in Newport.

Matches in the tournament are three sets, with a tiebreaker.

"Is John coming?" Mahut said with a laugh. "So, yeah, it's going to be a short match, I guess."


Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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