I guess that in an era where 9 hour 70-68 5th sets are the norm (ok, slight exaggeration there, but bear with me), there really isn’t too much point in lamenting on a match that lasted a mere 5-odd hours, and was *only* extended to 21-19 in the 5th set. But at the time, the Australian Open quarterfinal between Andy Roddick and Younes El Aynaoui was, in addition to being the longest match to take place at the Australian Open, widely regarded as one of the greatest matches in men’s tennis, and it still is.
It feels really odd to look back at the pictures of this match. Seven years really isn’t a very long time at all. The memories of the event are still raw and vivid in my mind, yet those pictures tell a completely different story. While Younes has barely aged in the 7 years since, Andy looks worlds apart from the Andy Roddick of the old days. Back then he was young, fresh faced, long haired, Reebok-clad and, of course, armed with that hideous visor thing. The rackets were different, the court was different, most of the players were different too. However, one thing that remains after all of these years is the fact that it was an incredible match.
What made this such a memorable and classic match was that, outside of mere numbers and statistics, the level of play was sky-high from start to finish. Both players engaged in lengthy, gruelling rallies – slicing, approaching the net, hitting dropshots, blasting serves and groundstrokes alike. Playing at that level for a straight sets best-of-three match is impressive enough, but the pair managed to keep this play going through the whole match. And even more than that, the level continued to rise as the match and fifth set wore on. Both competitors, such massive personalities, wore their hearts on their sleeves throughout the battle and by the end of the match, it was one of those rare moments where the crowd wasn’t cheering for a specific player, they were cheering for tennis. Because, without sounding horribly clichéd, tennis was the victor that day.