Through 58 games under a broiling sun in the obscurity of Court 16, the longest women's match in Grand Slam history proved the most compelling tennis at Wimbledon isn't always played by big names on Centre Court.
Chanda Rubin endured a pulled stomach muscle, nausea and increasing heaviness in her legs to beat Patricia Hy-Boulais 7-6 (7-4), 6-7 (7-5), 17-15 Wednesday in a three-hour, 45-minute test of willpower and stamina.
The drama upstaged a straight-sets victory by two-time defending champion Pete Sampras and an upset of Australian Open winner Mary Pierce.
Nothing on the show courts compared to the match on No.
16, where eventually about 500 fans wedged into the walkways along the sidelines to watch.
"I guess maybe (the distraction of the crowd) made it that much harder to close the match out," Rubin said, "but it was kind of nice just to have people there. I was amazed they were still there, because, you know, I would have walked away if I had the chance."
Rubin had several chances to finish it earlier, but each time Hy-Boulais dug in to prolong the duel. Then Hy-Boulais had her chances and served for the match at 13-12 and at 15-14 of the third set. The chalk on the baseline was worn away by then, but a linesman still called Hy-Boulais for a couple of foot faults.
"I can't even see the lines anymore," Hy-Boulais said, then proceeded to lose her service, leaving the match tied.
Two hours into the final set, Rubin walked gingerly to the baseline while Hy-Boulais prepared to serve the 32nd game. Rubin's chest was heaving as she gulped in the stifling heat, and her eyes looked sleepy. Hy-Boulais seemed as weary, sweat pouring down her sunburned face.
Hy-Boulais hit a backhand into the net, double-faulted, then hit a forehand wide, giving Rubin three match points. She wasted only one and won at last on another forehand into the net by Hy-Boulais.
Pierce's first Wimbledon lasted two matches. She lost to fellow Frenchwoman Nathalie Tauziat 6-4, 3-6, 6-1. "Nathalie is a great player on grass and she has more experience than I do," said Pierce, who pulled out of Wimbledon at the last minute the past two years.
Said Tauziat: "I was No. 1 in France for seven years. Who can say that today? I'm the only one who can say that."
Men's No. 4 seed Goran Ivanisevic had 28 aces in a 6-4, 6-2, 7-6 (7-5) victory over Jonathan Stark.
While Wimbledon has introduced new balls this year to try to curb the power game, Ivanisevic said the move would not affect his huge serve.
"I'm still going to hit my 20 or 30 aces if I'm mentally okay," he said. "If you want to see slow tennis, go to the French Open or go watch women's tennis."
And Sampras beat Tin Henman 6-2, 6-3, 7-6 (7-3).
Henman, 20, whose grandfather played three years at Wimbledon and whose parents are All-England Club members, became the first player to be thrown out of the tournament in the Open era.
After losing a point during a doubles match, Henman whacked a ball out of his hand. The ball hit the ear of a ball girl who had run to pick up another ball. The girl fell, then ran back to her spot and cried. A doctor and trainer were called to treat her, and Henman was disqualified with partner Jeremy Bates for unsportsmanlike conduct. Henman called it an accident.
"With the speed of the ball, it could have killed the girl," said Jeff Tarango, one of his opponents.
The longest match
Details of the longest women's singles match in Grand Slam history in which Chanda Rubin defeated Patty Hy-Boulais 7-6 (7-4), 6-7 (7-5), 17-15:
Length: 58 games, longest in singles.
Previous record in Grand Slam tournament: 56, when Kerry Melville, Australia, def. Pam Teegarden, United States, 9-7, 4-6, 16-14, French Open semifinal of 1972.
Previous record at Wimbledon: 54, when Alice Wiewers, France, def. Rita Anderson, United States, 8-10, 14-12, 6-4, 1948 second round.
Length of final set: 32 games, longest in women's singles or doubles at Wimbledon.
Previous longest in singles: 26, achieved six times; in doubles, 32.
Number of service breaks: 17.
Number of points: 356.
Number of match points: Rubin _ 7, Hy-Boulais _ 1.
Length of match: Three hours, 45 minutes. The final set alone lasted 2:04.