The longest rally in tennis history: 29 minutes, 643 shots

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Dave Seminara wrote a great story about an astonishing historic rally between two women’s tennis players, and I will share some facts from his article here on Women’s Tennis Blog.

Vicki Nelson and Jean Hepner played the longest rally in the history of professional tennis, which included 643 shots and was played when Hepner had a set point in the second set tiebreak, which lasted 1 hour and 47 minutes on its own. Can you believe it?

After the 29-minute long rally Nelson went for a winner and won the point. She was also the winner of the match, after 6 hours and 31 minutes of play. Final score was 6-4 7-6(11). Not surprisingly, the marathon was the longest match in tennis history for nearly twenty years, and is still the longest match completed on a single day.

When the rally was over, Nelson collapsed with cramps in her legs. Bizarrely, the chair umpire called a time-violation warning, but Nelson collected herself and continued the match.

You must be wondering how in the world that rally lasted so long. Nelson explains: “We were both pretty much standing on the baseline lobbing.”

And imagine this: Had Hepner won the rally, the match would have been taken to the third set, and I don’t want to even imagine where that would have led.

The match was played on September 24, 1984, in the first round of the $50,000 Virginia Slims-sponsored Ginny tournament at the Raintree Swim and Racquet Club in Richmond. Nelson and Hepner were ranked No. 93 and No. 172 in the world.


  1. guau! impresionante (astonishing!) there´s no some vid about this?, reciently i´ve been interesting from tennis player of this decade (70´s & 80´s) seeking videos in youtube (Tracy Austin, Evonne goolagong, Mandlikova, etc, “what a players!)

  2. Ale, I don’t have the video, but it probably exists somewhere.

    Rich, yeah, it was probably more boring than thrilling.

  3. must be boring first, but until the point came at almost ten minute, the only chance that anyone of both players loss that point must convert this fight in a thrilling view (sorry 4 my english i improvise)

  4. This is truly amazing! Especially considering the fact that they were trying to win the point. My twin brother and I rallied for 14 hours and 31 minutes – but we were trying to set the Guinness World Record for the longest tennis rally – all to raise money for charity. Both of these women are inspirational when it comes to patience, determination and the will to win. Nice stuff!


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