Three-day doubles epic ends in defeat for Britain's Clarke and Norrie

Marcelo Arevalo of El Salvador and Hans Podlipnik-Castillo of Chile pose after defeating Jay Clarke and Cameron Norrie of Great Britain - Getty Images Europe
Marcelo Arevalo of El Salvador and Hans Podlipnik-Castillo of Chile pose after defeating Jay Clarke and Cameron Norrie of Great Britain - Getty Images Europe

Tim Henman and Goran Ivanisevic, John Isner and Nicolas Mahut - Wimbledon yesterday added another match to its pantheon of three-day epics as Britain's Jay Clarke and Cameron Norrie lost a men's doubles marathon 22-20 in the fifth set.

Almost 48 hours after first stepping onto court 14, Norrie and Clarke finally succumbed to a 6-4, 6-7, 5-7, 6-4, 22-20 defeat against Marcelo Arevalo of El Salvador and Chile's Hans Podlipnik-Castillo.

In total game terms, it was the joint-second longest men's doubles match at Wimbledon since the introduction of the tie-break. It was also the fourth longest ever by duration.

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Overall, the match lasted 5hr 2min, 87 games and 521 points. The fifth set alone lasted 144 minutes, during which time France started and finished their World Cup quarter-final against Uruguay.

But the raw numbers don't do justice to a first-round match that became a battle of nerve, with both pairs clinging on for dear life. As the final set wore on Arevalo and Podlipnik-Castillo started to dominate and held eight match points before finally sealing victory on the ninth.

It was, as Norrie succinctly put it: "a sick match". And to add to the absurdity of it all, Clarke was scheduled for a mixed doubles match in the evening with fellow Brit Harriet Dart. As days at the office go, this was the equivalent of a double, or possible triple shift. "I saw Jay in the ice bath and said 'good luck with that one'," Norrie said.

Norrie also revealed that during the fifth set his mind wondered to Inser and Mahut's 70-68 final set in 2010. "I was thinking about the Isner one," he said. "A statue would have been nice."

Jay Clarke and Cameron Norrie of Great Britai - Credit: GETTY IMAGES
Jay Clarke and Cameron Norrie of Great BritaiCredit: GETTY IMAGES

The fact that the match lasted almost 48 hours was partly the result of questionable scheduling. After playing for just 13 minutes before rain started on Wednesday, the match was scheduled fourth on Thursday, meaning it didn't resume until almost 7pm. Convention normally dictates that matches held over are given an early start the next day.

After more than two hours of play on Thursday, the match was stopped again for bad light - following a lengthy delay when Norrie accidentally smashed a ball into Arevalo's nether regions.

Norrie questioned why the match started so late on Thursday. "I thought it was pretty poor scheduling but what can you do," he said. "We had break points at 3-3 in the fourth, then I got him right in the b**** and it stopped all the momentum."

When they did resume yesterday, Norrie and Clarke were leading two sets to one, but after losing the fourth set they settled into the marathon decider. Norrie said that he had let his team-mate down by returning poorly down the home stretch. "I didn't think it was possible to return that badly," he said.

Elsewhere on Friday there was plenty of British doubles success. Highlights included the men's fifth seeds Jamie Murray and Brazilian partner Bruno Soares routing Albert Ramos-Vinolas and Paolo Lorenzi 7-5, 6-2, 6-1 to reach the second round.

Ken Skupski meanwhile posted an impressive double - beating the men's ninth seeds Jean-Julien Rojer and Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi with brother Neal in straight sets, and then winning in the mixed doubles with Anna Smith.

Heather Watson and her German partner Tatjana Maria thumped the 11th seeds Anna-Lena Gronefeld and Raquel Atawo 6-3, 6-1 to reach the last-16 stage of the women's event.