June 23. Not only Moldovan Independence Day. Yesterday, friends, was a remarkable day in sports.
In the World Cup, the United States survived a few early scares from Algeria and, in the 91st minute (stoppage time), put together a scintillating play that ended in Landon Donovan (pictured) tucking the ball away beyond the reach of Algerian goalkeeper M’bohi Rais Ouhed. Donovan’s goal secured a position for the Americans in the quarterfinals, in addition to giving them the top ranking in their group for the first time since 1930. And in the world of Wimbledon tennis, a first-round matchup between American John Isner and Frenchman Nicolas Mahut that started on Tuesday (but was suspended due to darkness) extended throughout the entire day—and didn’t even finish until this morning. The longest match in ATP history, both in time elapsed and games played, concluded with Isner taking the fifth set, 70-68. SEVENTY to SIXTY-EIGHT. The final score: 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (3), 70-68. It was a true tour de force, the match breaking several records (in terms of duration and serving) and taking more than eleven hours of play to complete.
Both matches showcased incredible athleticism and determination, not just on Americans’ sides. Phenomenal performances by Algerian striker Rafik Djebbour and goalie Ouhed kept the U.S. on their toes throughout the game. Djebbour hit the crossbar in the 6th minute, and Ouhed made crucial stops throughout the course of the game that made for an infuriating 90 minutes—not helped, of course, by a poor call that the referee made on what seemed like an easy goal by American Clint Dempsey. The play was whistled for offsides, though commentators and we mere fans alike could see upon replay that Dempsey was perfectly onside. In the end, however, the call mattered little, as Donovan’s goal in injury time lifted the U.S. out of the group stage and into the elimination rounds. They play Ghana on Saturday afternoon.
In all probability, we will never again witness a phenomenon as amazing as the Isner-Mahut match. Both players kept their serve in top form, earning over one hundred service aces each! How Isner will manage to play in the coming rounds is beyond me. Mahut should not really feel like he lost today; he was a part of tennis history. But as we move into the weekend, dreams of American success in the World Cup and Wimbledon are still very much alive (not just thanks to Isner, but also to Andy Roddick’s success in his matches). If these last few days of sports have taught me anything, it is that one must expect the unexpected; France and Italy, the runner-up and winner, respectively, in 2006’s Finals, have both been eliminated from World Cup play. Whether “it only takes a second to score a goal” (oft-repeated words of soccer wisdom) or eleven hours to win a match, we are witnessing some sensational performances in the world of sports.