Kevin Anderson beat John Isner in an extraordinary men's semi-final at Wimbledon 2018 on Friday. The South African prevailed by winning the fifth set 26-24 after six hours and 35 minutes.
The epic encounter goes down as the tournament's longest ever semi-final. It is also the second longest match ever played at Wimbledon:
Longest matches in #Wimbledon history…— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 13, 2018
⏱11hrs 5mins - J Isner d. N Mahut (2010)
⏱6hrs 36mins - K Anderson d. J Isner (2018)
⏱6hrs 9mins - M Knowles/ D Nestor d. S Aspelin/ T Perry (2006)#TakeOnHistory pic.twitter.com/fkVljLkcmS
Anderson showed little signs of fatigue despite needing five sets to beat defending champion Roger Federer in the quarter-finals on Wednesday. He will go on to play either Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic in Sunday's final.
The second semi-final did not start until late in the evening due to the length of Anderson's match. Play was suspended at 11 p.m. local time with Djokovic leading Nadal by two sets to one. The two men will return on Saturday to finish their match.
(8) Kevin Anderson bt. (9) John Isner 7-6, 6-7, 6-7, 6-4, 26-24
(2) Rafael Nadal vs. (12) Novak Djokovic 4-6, 6-3, 6-7 (9), play suspended
Anderson's match with Isner always looked as if it might go the distance. It did not disappoint as the two big servers found opportunities to break rare.
The first three sets all went to a tie-break with Anderson claiming the opener, before Isner hit back and took the next two to move ahead.
The first break of serve did not arrive until the third set when Anderson finally made the breakthough. After 110 consecutive holds Isner was finally broken, per sports journalist Reem Abulleil:
After holding for 110 service games this tournament, Isner is finally broken by Anderson, who is now up 7-6, 6-7, 5-3. #wimbledon— Reem Abulleil (@ReemAbulleil) July 13, 2018
Incredibly the American hit straight back on his way to winning the third set.
The fourth set was more open and went Anderson's way to set up the crucial decider. The records continued to tumble in a mesmerising match dominated by serve:
As the match ticked past the six-hour mark Anderson started to earn break points, but a stubborn Isner kept coming up with the goods when it mattered.
Anderson kept pushing and even managed to stay in a rally after falling and playing a left-handed shot:
The pressure on Isner eventually told. A tired forehand wide on match point gave Anderson victory and a place in the final.
The South African showed little emotion after his win but wants to see the format of Grand Slam tournaments changed in the wake of his epic match, per Christoper Clarey at the New York Times:
Kevin Anderson delighted to win but calls for change of the no-tiebreak 5th set rules at Wimbledon and elsewhere. "I really hope we can look at this and address this because in the end you don't even feel that great out there."— Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) July 13, 2018
The match meant a late start for Nadal and Djokovic under a closed roof on Centre Court. Djokovic began strongly and put his opponent under pressure from the off.
His aggression paid dividends as he earned a break at 4-3 on his way to clinching the opener. Tennis commentator David Law suggested that meant bad news for Nadal:
The Serb was dominant and had break points in the first game of the second set, but Nadal showed all his fighting qualities to hang on.
Djokovic then let his level drop and allowed Nadal to break and move 3-1 up. It was a poor service game which left him roaring in frustration, but he hit straight back with a superb forehand crosscourt winner.
Nadal was not to be denied as the quality of the match moved up a notch. A few errors crept into Djokovic's play and Nadal took full advantage, moving 4-2 up with a superb forehand winner.
The Spaniard showed a few signs of tension as he tried to serve out the second set. Djokovic did have break points but could not convert as the second seed levelled it up.
The tension increased in the third set with both players aware they would have to finish at 11 p.m. Still, the two former Wimbledon champions were playing at a high level, per Law:
You can keep your 10 o’clock news.— David Law (@DavidLawTennis) July 13, 2018
The news here is that the level of tennis has reached ‘absurd’.
That’s ‘absurd’ in a good way.
Djokovic managed to take the advantage by claiming an exciting tie-break, despite Nadal having chances to take it. Wimbledon confirmed when the match will resume:
Nadal has work to do on Saturday if he is to reach his first Wimbledon final since 2011. Djokovic is in good shape to progress to a final against Anderson, and it will need all of the Spaniard's powers of recovery to beat his opponent from here.