Nicolas Mahut certainly knows a little something about being on court for a long time. Judging by his smile, it was a much better feeling this time.
The 31-year old Frenchman captured the title at the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships on Sunday, beating Lleyton Hewitt of Australia 5-7, 7-5, 6-3.
Mahut, a 2007 Newport finalist and a wild-card entrant this week, won his second career ATP title. The other came at `s-Hertogenbosch last month.
Mahut lost the longest match in tennis history three years ago, dropping the fifth set to John Isner 70-68 at Wimbledon in a match that lasted 11 hours, 5 minutes. A display with items used in that match is located a few hundred yards away in the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
On Sunday morning, Mahut advanced after beating American Michael Russell 6-2, 6-2 in just 63 minutes. Mahut needed 2 hours, 19 minutes to get past Hewitt. Then he had to prepare for a doubles semifinal.
”You guys know I can play a long time, stay a long time on the court,” he said, breaking into a grin while standing on a rear practice court. ”I would like to tell you I’m not tired. I’m tired, but I have the trophy in my bag, so I just need to get ready to play one more match.”
In the final set, Mahut broke in the sixth and eighth games to take control. He won the final point with a drop shot at the net, then dropped to his knees, putting both hands to his face before bending face down.
”I was not supposed to play,” he said of gaining a wild-card entry into the tournament. ”I wasn’t able to play the (qualifiers). I’m really grateful to (the tourney director) for the wild card he gave me.”
In the second set, Hewitt led 5-3. Mahut held in the ninth game before breaking in the 10th, winning the last two points when Hewitt double faulted.
Earlier in the day, two-time defending champion Isner’s run on Newport’s grass court came to an end when he was ousted by No. 4 seed Hewitt 5-7, 6-2, 6-4.
The loss ended 13 straight match wins in Newport for the 28-year old Isner, the highest ranked American at No. 19.
The 32-year old Hewitt, who lost the Newport final to Isner last year, felt the lengthy earlier match affected his play.
”It was a long battle this morning. It was tough on both of us,” he said. ”In the end, I got the better of John. It was going to be tough on both of us this afternoon.”
Both semifinals were rained out Saturday.
”It’s never disappointing losing to a guy like Lleyton Hewitt, especially on this surface,” said Isner, who called for the trainer after the first changeover. ”I was probably eventually going to lose this tournament. It just happened a little earlier than I thought or wanted.”
The 6-foot-10 Isner said he felt pain in his left knee area, similar to what forced him to retire in his second-round match at Wimbledon last month.
”It was obviously not as severe because I was able to continue,” he said. ”It was a little bit scary. The more I think about it and the more I talk about it, I think it’s an issue with my quad because the pain is directly above my kneecap.”
But he said it wasn’t the reason he lost the match, which was played in bright sunshine under humid conditions, with temperatures in the mid-80s.
”He handled the conditions much better than me, simple as that,” he said. ”He deserved to win.”
At 40-30 the final game, Hewitt ended the match with a forehand cross-court shot. He raised both hands in the air before waving to his wife, Bec, seated in the first row on the far end of the court.