Cape Town – Cape Town tennis enthusiasts Carlos Gomes and Wendy Thompson broke the Guinness World Record for the longest singles tennis match, raising close to half a million Rands in the process, and despite the extreme physical and mental toll it took on both of them, they have vowed to attempt a further record in the future.
At 10am on Monday morning they set a new record by playing singles tennis for 64 hours, bettering the previous mark set by two German tennis enthusiasts by almost two hours.
Cheered on by supporters at the Constantia Tennis Club and youngsters from the Khayalitsha and Khayamandi Tennis Clubs, the clubs that they were raising funds to upgrade, Gomes and Thompson had to dig deep to grind through some serious challenges during their marathon match.
“Shew, I went into some really dark places,” said an exhausted but elated Thompson, who had to have both legs heavily strapped to get her through the record bid.
“Physically we were able to deal with the challenges of the aches and pains but mentally it was very tough. In particular playing through the night and the tough times at around 2am on the Sunday and Monday mornings,” she added.
Gomes went through similar challenges, both mentally and physically. He went into the bid carrying a cold, which gradually worsened and he lost his voice. Then his right hand gave in midway through the Saturday, despite all the medical attention from his support team, and he was forced to play the second half of the marathon match left-handed.
“If there is one good thing I have taken out of this experience, it is that I might actually play better left-handed,” he said after the ordeal.
“Mentally, it was tougher than I imagined. The fatigued plays on your mind and converts to anger. Luckily I had some good friends who were able to keep my head together and keep us on track.
"Within the first 5 hours I realised the hugeness of the task at hand and seriously doubted I could make it purely out of a time factor. I never doubted my fitness or the reason why we embarked on this mad challenge.
"From about hour 58 I was going downhill quickly it just happened without warning," said Gomes "I don’t remember much of it at all, I do remember being blind for a while and being helped by our support team as to where to stand and when to swing the racquet.
"I had zero strength and was in intense pain from my right wrist. I was truly struggling with an hour to go before we beat the record. The guys around me rallied whatever strength I had left in me to somehow push through, I needed a medical time-out just to check vitals which proved to be OK.
"We broke the record by some 15 min and then Wendy who was in much better shape on Monday than me went on to complete the 65 Hrs for the sponsorships with a substitute," said Gomes.
"We had the kids from Khayalitsha and Khayamandi there and they had a massive impact on helping us through as they wrote motivational messages on the pavement and sang songs of support and had an amazing time with our coaches and on the jumping castle.
"They loved the experience and we loved doing this for them," said Gomes. "We have choices they don’t so quitting is not an option."
With pledges, raffle ticket sales and other contributions still coming in, Gomes and Thompson’s heroics seem to have struck a chord with tennis lovers and corporates across the world.
The ultimate driver behind their new record was to raise enough money to refurbish the tennis facilities at Khayalitsha on the Cape Flats and at Khayamandi in Stellenbosch and to put in place a sustainable tennis development and support programme at those centres.
And despite the pain and fatigue, the pair has been quick to set their sights on another world record to bolster the capital needed to sustain their Grass Roots Tennis project.
“Yes, there will definitely be another bid!” croaked Gomes. This time it seems likely they will target the Guinness World Record for the longest doubles tennis match, which, curiously, is actually shorter that the old mark for the singles record.