NEW YORK – You'd think, perhaps, that John Isner and Nicolas Mahut might be a tad tired of seeing each other after sharing a Wimbledon court for more than 11 hours spread over three days during their record-breaking match that ended with a 70-68 fifth set.
So see if you can guess which player the very first person Isner saw when he set foot in the U.S. Open locker room this week. Yes, of course: Mahut.
"We did the handshake, high-five thing. Sat and talked for about five minutes. And ever since then, I keep running into him in the locker room and we talk. I talk to his coaches. He talks to my coach," Isner said. "Obviously, we're definitely good friends now."
They met again and chatted briefly Wednesday at Flushing Meadows, before the 18th-seeded Isner went out and needed less than two hours to eliminate Portugal's Frederico Gil 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 in the first round of the U.S. Open.
"For my second-round match," Isner said with a knowing snicker, "I should be a little bit fresher than I was at Wimbledon."
Understandably, the 6-foot-9 American was too physically spent to put up a fight in his second match at the All England Club in June, when the final set alone lasted more than eight hours — long enough to break the record for longest match.
There were no such theatrics against Gil, in part because Isner did not face a single break point, although he only converted three of 19 that he earned.
Isner was playing for the first time since injuring his ankle in Cincinnati two weeks ago, and he said it held up fine, although it was painful at times.
During his postmatch, on-court interview, Isner was asked — of course — about his match against Mahut at the All England Club in June.
Ever since then, Isner has made clear that he appreciates having been a part of that match, yet hopes to one day be known for something else he accomplishes in tennis.
"It was a pretty historic match," he said Wednesday, "but ... I want to put it behind me."
Mahut failed to qualify for the singles tournament at Flushing Meadows, but he did enter the men's doubles event, losing earlier Wednesday. He said he chatted briefly with Isner before the American took to the court against Gil, who is ranked 87th and fell to 0-9 in Grand Slam action.
Isner and Mahut have stayed in touch, mostly via e-mail, since sharing Court 18 at Wimbledon for longer than any tennis players ever had during an official match.
"This is maybe a match we will talk about during the next 20 years," Mahut said Wednesday. "Maybe more."
While Isner took some time off to recover after Wimbledon, Mahut went ahead and played again right away, entering a grass-court tournament at Newport, R.I., something he now regrets. He wrenched his back at Newport and said he still isn't exactly sure what is wrong — but he knows that he can't play properly.
"My body just says, 'I don't want to play tennis anymore, so give me a rest, give me a break,'" Mahut said. "I just really wanted to play in the U.S. Open. The fact is, I was not ready."
Mahut said he was pulling for Isner to do well in the U.S. Open. A year ago, Isner upset 2003 champion Andy Roddick en route to reaching the fourth round.
"I hope he's going to be ready," Mahut said, before Isner faced Gil. "I cross my fingers for him."