Anderson enters finals after clinching a marathon

By Agency Published on Jul 14, 2018 01:36 PM IST

John Isner

London:  Kevin Anderson won the longest Centre Court match in history and earned a chance to try to collect his first Grand Slam championship, edging John Isner 7-6 (6), 6-7 (5), 6-7 (9), 6-4, 26-24 at Wimbledon in a marathon between two big servers that lasted more than six-and-a-half hours.

The fifth set alone lasted nearly 3 hours as the semi-final became a test of endurance more than skill. Anderson finally earned the must-have, go-ahead service break with the help of a point in which the right-hander tumbled to his backside, scrambled back to his feet and hit a shot.

By winning the semi-final, Kevin Anderson became the first South African man in 97 years to reach the Wimbledon final.

Only one match at the All England Club has been longer: Isner's 2010 first-round victory over Nicolas Mahut, which went more than 11 hours over three days and finished 70-68 on the fifth. That was played over on Court 18, which now bears a plaque commemorating the record-setter.

Anderson, a 32-year-old from South Africa, eliminated eight-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer in a 13-11 fifth set in the quarterfinals Wednesday.

Kevin Anderson

Between that and the energy-sapper against Isner yesterday, it's hard to imagine how the No. 8 seed Anderson will have much left for Sunday's final, his second at a major.

Anderson was the runner-up to Rafael Nadal at last year's US Open. There could be a re-match now. Anderson's opponent for the title will be Nadal or Novak Djokovic, who did not set foot on Centre Court until just before 8 pm last evening, after waiting around all day.

Because it was so late, and with rain forecast, the All England Club shut the retractable roof above the main stadium before the second semi-final.

The expectation was that the first semi-final would be a tight contest filled with tiebreakers - and that's precisely what it was. In the pros, Isner's generally gotten the better of things, leading their head-to-head series at 8-3 entering this semifinal. But this one was as competitive and close as can be.

Two hours and two sets in, they were even at one apiece, each via tiebreaker, with zero service breaks, only the very occasional extended point and aces by the dozen.

Both had chances to gain the upper hand much earlier. Isner failed to convert a set point in the opener. Anderson served for the third at 5-3, got broken, then had a pair of set points in that tiebreaker, double-faulting one away.

Isner took that set on his third chance, when Anderson flubbed a forehand.

At 4-all in the fourth, it was Isner who faltered, getting broken. Another break point for Anderson arrived at 10-all, but he shanked a backhand.

Two points later, Isner held with a forehand passing winner on the run and let his momentum carry him directly to his sideline chair for the ensuing changeover. By the end, he was looking exhausted, leaning over to rest a hand on a knee between points.

Isner never got a break point in the fifth set. Anderson finally came through on his sixth to lead 25-24, then served out the victory when Isner sailed a forehand wide. Soon, they were meeting for an embrace.