Wimbledon, July 13: Kevin Anderson overcame John Isner in a record-breaking battle on Centre Court to secure a place in the Wimbledon final.
Anderson reaches Wimbledon final after epic Isner clash
Having needed five sets to stun Roger Federer in the last round, Anderson eventually triumphed 7-6 (8-6), 6-7 (5-7), 6-7 (9-11), 6-4, 26-24 in a battle between two of the biggest servers on the ATP Tour.
The duo combined to produce the second-longest match in the tournament's history, with their epic duel eventually ending after six hours and 35 minutes.
The final set alone lasted an astonishing two hours and 54 minutes, forcing Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic to wait patiently in the wings to start their mouthwatering clash.
Isner is no stranger to marathon matches at SW19 - he holds the record at the venue after going a staggering 11 hours and five minutes in his victory against Nicolas Mahut in 2010 - but he was the first to buckle in a decider that felt like it might never end.
After failing to convert four earlier break-point opportunities in the fifth set, Anderson finally claimed the all-important lead in the 49th game before serving out for the match.
However, the match is unlikely to be remembered as a classic in terms of quality. The crowd grew restless as it left Centre Court ticket holders waiting far longer than anticipated to watch icons of the sport Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic resume their enduring rivalry with a 52nd meeting on the ATP Tour in the other semi-final.
Indeed, one weary spectator had had enough in the 27th game of a gruelling fifth set that seemed to be dragging on with no end in sight as he heckled: "Come on guys, we want to see Rafa!"
He was made to wait an hour and 18 minutes longer for his wish to finally come true.
Yet it was a remarkable feat of endurance from eighth seed Anderson, who fought back from two sets and match point down to defeat eight-time champion Roger Federer 2-6, 6-7 (5-7), 7-5, 6-4, 13-11 in the quarter-finals.
It is even more incredible when considering that the South African has had to contend with knee, shoulder, groin, hip, thigh and ankle injuries since 2016 that sent him tumbling from the top 10 down to 80th in the rankings.
Having spent close to 11 hours on court in his last two matches, he has well and truly earned his place in a second grand slam final in under a year - a chance to avenge his 2017 US Open defeat to Nadal could be in the offing.
Isner's reputation as Wimbledon's veritable marathon man is now comfortably assured, despite him being on the losing side this time.
Given that Isner and Anderson are first and second respectively for tie-breaks contested on the circuit this year - the American taking part in 42 and his opponent having been involved in 31 prior to their meeting in SW19 - it was unsurprising that they went beyond 12 games in four of their five sets.
Both players are rangy, big-serving heavy hitters and they were never going to provide a display of anything else.
The crowd had a glimpse of what they were in store for in just the third game, which consisted of three break points and eight deuces before Anderson held serve after 13 minutes.
"At the end you feel like it’s a draw, but someone has to win. John is a great guy and I really feel for him"
And nothing had changed by the time the 35th game of the painful decider came around, again encapsulating why this had become become such a mammoth clash.
Anderson created two break points that would have put him in a position to serve out the ailing proceedings, but Isner responded to hold by firing down a pair of powerful aces - he now holds the record for the most in a single championship having passed Goran Ivanisevic's 212 in 2001.
The decisive moment came in game 49 of the decider, when Anderson lifted himself off the floor, kept the point alive with a left-handed shot and went on to complete just the sixth break of the match.
Isner had nothing left to give and his wait for a first grand slam final appearance will not come until at least the 42nd attempt, which is the record begrudgingly held by David Ferrer.