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June 24th, 2010
10:50 AM ET

Historic match takes physical, mental toll

By John Bonifield
CNN Medical Producer

The longest tennis match in history resumed this morning.

Wednesday evening Nicolas Mahut and John Isner finally got a break on the Wimbledon court when the sun went down. The two tennis players had been battling each other for the win for 10 hours.

“I’ve seen some long matches, but never to that extent,” says Dr. Gary Wadler, a former physician with the U.S. Open Tennis Championships for 11 years. “It underscores how fit someone has to be to play at high-level tennis.”

Wadler says the 10-hour match most likely took a heavy physical toll on the players' bodies. Their energy systems were being taxed to the fullest.

“That’s when you get fatigue. You can’t keep up any more. You start cramping,” Wadler says. “The vulnerability to injury increases when you’re playing that long.”

Wadler says issues of judgment come into play, as well as concerns about dehydration and heatstroke. As a former doctor on tennis courts himself, he says he used to encourage players to use their change-overs to drink adequate fluids.

“Once you start the match you only have 90-second turnovers. You can’t make up the amount of water being lost in that amount of time,” he says. “You really have to be hydrated going into the match.”

And of course Wimbledon isn’t a match; it’s a tournament.

“The winner is going to have to move on to another match,” Wadler says, “Their recovery is important, too.”

Jack Stark, a sports physchologist works with NASCAR drivers, mixed martial arts fighters, wrestlers and basketball players, noted that the battle wasn't just physical.

“The body is an amazing thing," he said. "This may go down as one of the best examples of mental toughness of all time. It’s mentally exhausting to watch it, let alone play it.... It’s as mentally exhausting as it is physical.”

Ultimately, Stark says,  “They know they're part of something incredibly special.”

And for the next round? “Whoever survives, it will be a huge letdown.”

CNN Senior Medical  Producer David S. Martin contributed to this report.

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Filed under: Exercise • Fitness

soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. pat

    Tell it to the workers who labor all day to the point of exhaustion to feed their families and live paycheck to paycheck. They don't get dressed up in cute little outfits and sip tea with their pinky in the air after they're done.

    June 24, 2010 at 15:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. juliet

    Wow! that was a really long and impressive match... but not what about the fans? we are no ready for that or all this emotions, I found this article about the world cup, check it out: http://www.mditv.com/blog/2010/06/22/warning-watching-the-world-cup-could-be-hazardous-to-your-heart/comment-page-1/#comment-1109.

    June 24, 2010 at 16:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Alex

    Ok pat obviously you didn't watch this match, lets watch you do sprints for 11 hours straight and see if you are still alive. Please keep it to intelligent comments, thanks

    June 25, 2010 at 02:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Gino

    Cute little outfits? Tea?

    I was under the impression that this article discusses athletes playing a very physical game at a high level, and not outmoded elitism.

    It's the same with football. You need to be in peak physical condition, because you're running around constantly. Laboring? It's hard, and I hate to diminish the people who do it, but with the tremendous physical demands tennis has, I'd be surprised if either of these two players were able to lift a water bottle for the next week.

    June 25, 2010 at 07:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. giz

    more mentally exhausting than trying to watch the World Cup(oops, my bad, different type of exhausting, but not really, who cares?).

    June 25, 2010 at 08:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. bill

    Pat, the workers you speak of had the choice to be laborers and have families. Just like the tennis players did. No pity here.

    June 25, 2010 at 08:11 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.