By Pritha Sarkar
LONDON (Reuters) - A match between two missile-serving giants had the potential to go on for hours but luckily for Marin Cilic he only needed 15 minutes and two games on Saturday to complete a 7-6(4) 6-7(6) 6-4 6-7(4) 12-10 win over John Isner.
With the Wimbledon third-round match suspended at 10-10 in the fifth set under gathering gloom on Friday, the duo who hold the distinction of winning the annual tournament's two longest matches, returned to lock horns on a sun-drenched Court One.
But Croatian Cilic's 2012 victory over Sam Querrey, at five hours 31 minutes, was akin to a 100 meters sprint when compared to American Isner's feat of endurance in 2010.
The fifth set alone in that three-day epic against Frenchman Nicolas Mahut lasted eight hours 11 minutes and ended 70-68 with the final time clocked at 11 hours five minutes.
However, fears that the Cilic-Isner encounter could be a reprise of the "never-ending match" never materialized on Saturday as the American surrendered his title hopes with a double fault on the U.S. Open champion's fifth match point.
It was a tame end to a contest that had featured 437 points, 159 winners and 72 aces.
The duration of the match? A mere four hours 31 minutes.
"I was playing really good yesterday and was close to finishing it off," said ninth seed Cilic who had missed converting his first match point in the 10th game of the fifth set on Friday.
"Throughout the match I was the one who was putting on more pressure on the returns, and today I was hoping to continue with that. But you never know as it's a new day, new conditions and it's lucky that I broke him at the first opportunity."
So what does Cilic think of Wimbledon's rule of playing on in the deciding set rather than contesting a tiebreak at 6-6?
"For me, the rule is fine as long as you're not playing John!" quipped Cilic.
For Isner, it was a case of so near and yet so far.
"Two double faults (in the last) three points, so... this sport is weird," said the 17th seed, who until that final game had produced only one double fault.
"It's very, very disappointing because I have lost a lot of matches like that in the last four years or whatever.
Cilic will face another American, Denis Kudla, in the next round.
(Reporting by Pritha Sarkar, editing by Mark Meadows)