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March 8, 2015: the day Leonardo Mayer defeated Joao Souza in the longest Davis Cup singles match of all-time

Every day, Tennis Majors takes you back in time to celebrate a great moment in tennis history. Today, we go back to 2015 to witness how it took Leonardo Mayer six hours and 43 minutes to defeat Joao Souza in the first round of the Davis Cup

What happened exactly on that day

On this day, March 8, 2015, Leonardo Mayer, from Argentina, defeated Brazilian Joao Souza after six hours and 43 minutes, the longest singles match that ever played in the Davis Cup. It was also the second longest match of all-time overall, way behind John Isner and Nicolas Mahut’s 11-hour marathon at Wimbledon, in 2010.

The players involved: Leonardo Mayer and Joao Souza

  • Leonardo Mayer, top 30 star

Leonardo Mayer, from Argentina, was born in 1987. A very promising player, he reached world No 2 as a junior player in 2005, but it took him four years to break into the top 100. He took his career to the next level in 2014, beginning the season by reaching his first ATP final in Vina del Mar (lost to Fabio Fognini, 6-2, 6-4. Then he reached the fourth round of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time at Wimbledon (defeated by Grigor Dimitrov, 6-4, 7-6, 6-2), but he also claimed his first career title in Hamburg, with an outstanding win over David Ferrer in the final (6-7, 6-1, 7-6). He finished the year as world No 28, and in March 2015, he was world No 29.

Leonardo Mayer of Argentina
  • Joao Souza, Brazilian on the rise

Joao Souza, from Brazil, was born in 1988. He made himself known for the first time on the main Tour in 2010, when he reached the semi-finals of the Santiago Open after having made his way out of the qualifications (finally defeated by Juan Monaco, 6-2, 6-4). He failed to establish himself in the top 100 in the following years, but he began 2015 by obtaining the best result of his career when he reached the semi-finals in Sao Paulo, defeating world No 30 Leonardo Mayer on his way (6-4, 3-6, 6-3). In March 2015, he was world No 75, his best ranking so far.

The place: Tecnpolis, Buenos Aires, Argentina

The first-round Davis Cup tie between Argentina and Brazil was held on clay at the Tecnopolis, in Buenos Aires, which could host 12,000 spectators. Held in South America, it was the only tie of the draw to be played outdoors.

The facts

In the first round of the 2015 Davis Cup between Argentina and Brazil, in Buenos Aires, the Brazilian team held a 2-1 lead before play began on Sunday, March 8. Joao Souza, from Brazil, who had already defeated Carlos Berlocq a few weeks before in Sao Paulo, repeated his feat with a five-set win (6-4, 3-6, 5-7, 6-3, 6-2) before Leonardo Mayer leveled the tie by defeating Thomaz Bellucci (6-4, 6-3, 1-6, 6-3). On Saturday, Bruno Soares and Marcelo Melo had prevailed against Berlocq and Diego Schwartzman (7-5, 6-3, 6-4), so when Mayer entered the court to face Souza, he had no choice but to win to keep Argentina alive.

Joao Souza (BRA)

Mayer managed to take the first two sets on tiebreaks, and when he took a 4-1 lead in the third, no one in the audience would have thought that they were going to witness the longest singles match in the history of the Davis Cup. Despite having already played five sets two days before, the Brazilian held on and clawed his way back into the set, then into the match, pushing his opponent into an incredible fifth set (7-6, 7-6, 5-7, 5-7). 

In the deciding set, Souza saved three consecutive match points as he was trailing 5-4, 0-40; he repeated this feat a few games later, down 12-11, 0-40. In total, it took Mayer 11 match points to finally hit a winner and sealed his win, 15-13, maintaining his team alive after six hours and 43 minutes of play. Despite a brief attempt of celebration, the Argentinian was so tired that he had to be quickly treated for dehydration and it was his captain, Daniel Orsanic, who spoke to the journalists afterwards.

“I couldn’t feel prouder of him,” he said, according to daviscup.com. “What he did today is amazing, not only for the way the both played tennis…it goes beyond that. His spirit, his effort. He played with cramp for such a long time. (…) Then, for us, it was a very important match because it keeps us alive, and now we’re playing the fifth point.”

What next

The match between Mayer and Souza was so long that Federico Delbonis and Thomaz Bellucci, scheduled to begin after 6pm, could not play that evening as it was too late. On the following day, Delbonis would prevail (6-3, 3-6, 6-2, 7-5), sending Argentina into the next round – that year, the Argentinians would make their way into the semi-finals of the Davis Cup, where they would be eliminated by Belgium.

Leonardo Mayer would reach his highest ranking a few months later, in June 2015, as world No 21. He would add a second title to his list of achievements, again in Hamburg, in 2017, defeating Florian Mayer in the final (6-4, 4-6, 6-3). 

Joao Souza would climb as high as world No 69, in April 2015. In 2019, he would be banned from tennis after having been found guilty of fixing matches on the Challenger Tour. 

Their 2015 marathon remains the longest singles match in the history of the Davis Cup.

The five longest Davis Cup singles matches of all-time

  1. Leonardo Mayer defeats Joao Souza, 2015, first round, in 6 hours and 43 minutes (7-6, 7-6, 5-7, 5-7, 15-13)
  2. John McEnroe defeats Mats Wilander, 1982, quarter-finals, in 6 hours and 22 minutes (9-7, 6-2, 15-17, 3-6, 8-6)
  3. Boris Becker defeats John McEnroe, 1987, play-offs, in 6 hours and 21 minutes (4-6, 15-13, 8-10, 6-2, 6-2)
  4. Jose-Luis Clerc defeats John McEnroe, 1980, inter-zone final, in 6 hours and 15 minutes (6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 14-12)
  5. Horst Skoff defeats Mats Wilander, 1989, quarter-finals, in 6 hours and 4 minutes (6-7, 7-6, 1-6, 6-4, 9-7)
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