For tournaments without a final set tiebreaker, put John Isner on Centre Court at your own peril. The American giant did it again, smashing records at Wimbledon with another epic marathon. Eight years after his 11 hour, 3 minute saga with Nicolas Mahut, Isner found himself on Centre Court for a first time and facing another big server in Kevin Anderson.
Isner had led his collegiate rival 8-3 winning their last five. But Isner was playing his first Grand Slam semifinal while the South African was in his second after making the US Open final.
Few breaks of serve were expected and that how things went early. Both controlled the match with their serves with Anderson getting the first set, Isner grabbing the second, both in tiebreakers.
In the third, Anderson drew blood breaking Isner for the first time all tournament, snapping a streak of 110 service holds. But serving to take the third, Anderson folded up 5-3, 30-15.
Isner took the breaker and seemingly took control. But serving in the fourth, Isner got a shock break, however Anderson would give it right bad. Incredibly, Anderson would get another break and this time he closed out the fourth to force a fifth.
With no breaker in the fifth, it was anyone’s guess what would happen. Isner served first forcing Anderson to have to serve from behind. But Anderson had no issues, Isner would.
However the American kept escaping 0-30 hole after 0-30 hole. Finally, at 24-24, Isner went down 0-40 and with his legs wobbling, Anderson finally broke on his second chance. And like he did Wednesday, Anderson closed it for a 7-6(6), 6-7(5), 6-7(9), 6-4, 26-24 victory in 6 hours, 36 minutes.
“Playing like that in those conditions was really tough on both of us,” Anderson said. “At the end you feel like it’s a draw but someone has to win.
John is such a great guy and I really feel for him. I don’t know how you could take that, playing so long and coming up short. Congratulations to him on such a great tournament. Semis here is a remarkable achievement and I know he can come back stronger very soon.”
The match was the second longest ever at a Slam, and so to was the 50-game fifth set, both coming up short to the Isner-Mahut epic.
“You’re really in a war of attrition out there,” said Anderson. “It’s way beyond a normal tennis match or tactics. I mean, it’s just who’s going to outlast each other… [But] I’ve put myself into the finals of Wimbledon, which is half of a dream come true.”
Isner pounded 53 aces but in the end his body was breaking down.
“I feel pretty terrible,” said Isner. “My left heel is killing me. I have an awful blister on my right foot. I’ve felt better before. A few days’ rest, maybe more than that, and I’ll recoup and try to get all healed up again.
“Hats off to Kevin. He stayed the course incredibly well, played very well. It was a good win for him. He earned it, so. He played pretty well, I think, in the fifth set. I didn’t have many chances.”
Anderson, who saved a match point against Federer, will await the Rafael Nadal-Novak Djokovic winner.
With the Anderson match running long, the main event between Rafa and Novak didn’t start until after 8pm. And it did so with the roof shut as light was fading. But, per Wimbledon town rules, no play can continue past 11pm. And that’s what happened.
Djokovic raced out to a strong opening set, but Nadal found his bearings and his forehand in the second. The third was tight all the way, and the with the clock approaching 11, the two played one of their best tiebreakers won by Djokovic 11-9 after saving two set points.
So Djokovic will lead 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(9) when the two resume play Saturday afternoon at 1pm.
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