Marathon man

Anderson wins an­other lengthy 5-set­ter; this one gets him to Wim­ble­don final


LON­DON — To say that Kevin Anderson won this in­ter­minable Wim­ble­don semi­fi­nal, and that John Is­ner lost it, didn’t re­ally seem fair. To Anderson, any­way.

They had played on and on, through 6½ hours of ho-hum hold af­ter ho-hum hold, dur­ing the se­cond-long­est match in the history of a tour­na­ment that be­gan in 1877, all the way un­til the never-end­ing serv­ing marathon did, fi­nally, end at 26-24 in the fifth set Fri­day, with Anderson claim­ing the most im­por­tant of the 569 points — the last.

So when Anderson left Cen­tre Court, well aware that his 7-6 (6), 6-7 (5), 6-7 (9), 6-4, 26-24 vic­tory earned him the chance to win his first Grand Slam ti­tle at age 32, the South African said: “At the end, you feel like this is a draw be­tween the two of us.”

He con­tin­ued: “John’s such a great guy, and I re­ally feel for him, be­cause if I’d been on the op­po­site side, I don’t know how you can take that, play­ing for so long and com­ing up short.”

Only one match at Wim­ble­don ever lasted longer: Is­ner’s 2010 first-round vic­tory over Ni­co­las Mahut, the long­est match in ten­nis history. It went more than 11 hours over three days and fin­ished 70-68 in the fifth on Court 18, which now bears a plaque com­mem­o­rat­ing it. This was the third-long­est sin­gles match in the history of the sport.

Fri­day’s con­test lasted so long, the day’s se­cond semi­fi­nal didn’t fin­ish.

No­vak Djokovic was lead­ing Rafael Nadal 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (9) in a com­pelling show­down filled with en­ter­tain­ing points that was sus­pended as soon as the third set con­cluded at just past 11 p.m. in Lon­don, the curfew at the All England Club. Some peo­ple in the stands booed the de­ci­sion to halt the match af­ter a fan­tas­tic tiebreaker in which Nadal wasted three set points at 6-5, 7-6 and 8-7. Djokovic cashed in on his se­cond when Nadal’s back­hand found the net af­ter an 18-stroke ex­change.

Be­cause Nadal and Djokovic didn’t be­gin play­ing un­til af­ter 8 p.m., the re­tractable

roof above the main sta­dium was shut be­tween the matches and the arena’s ar­ti­fi­cial lights were turned on. Now they’ll come back to­day to fig­ure out who will face Anderson in the final, re­sum­ing at 6 a.m. (Moun­tain time), un­der the roof.

The women’s final be­tween Ser­ena Williams and An­gelique Ker­ber will then fol­low. That cre­ates an un­usual sit­u­a­tion: In­stead of a stan­dard 7 a.m. (New Mex­ico) start, Williams and Ker­ber won’t know ex­actly when their match will be­gin.

Anderson will cer­tainly ap­pre­ci­ate the chance to put his feet up ahead of Sun­day’s final, while Nadal and Djokovic — who have a com­bined 29 Grand Slam ti­tles be­tween them, five at Wim­ble­don — push each other some more.

Anderson’s fifth set alone lasted nearly 3 hours as his semi­fi­nal be­came a test of en­durance more than skill.

“He stayed the course in­cred­i­bly well,” said the No. 9 seed Is­ner, a 33-yearold Amer­i­can play­ing in his first ma­jor semi­fi­nal. “Just dis­ap­pointed to lose. I was pretty close to mak­ing a Grand Slam final and it didn’t hap­pen.”

Anderson fi­nally earned the must-have, go-ahead ser­vice break with the help of a point in which the righthander tum­bled to his back­side, scram­bled back to his feet and hit a shot lefty.

“That def­i­nitely brings a smile to my face,” said Anderson, the run­ner-up to Nadal at last year’s U.S. Open. “At that stage, you’re just try­ing to fight in ev­ery sin­gle mo­ment, and I was like, ‘Just get up!’ ”

The No. 8 seed Anderson elim­i­nated eight-time Wim­ble­don cham­pion Roger Fed­erer in a 13-11 fifth set in the quar­ter­fi­nals Wed­nes­day. Be­tween that and the en­ergy-sap­per against Is­ner, it’s hard to imag­ine how Anderson will have much left for his se­cond Slam final.

Wim­ble­don doesn’t use tiebreak­ers in the fifth set for men, or third set for women, so there’s noth­ing to pre­vent a match from con­tin­u­ing ad in­fini­tum. Both Is­ner and Anderson said they’d like to see that change.

At one point in the fifth set, a spec­ta­tor shouted, “Come on, guys! We want to see Rafa!”

The 6-foot-8 Anderson and 6-10 Is­ner go way back, to their col­lege days, Is­ner at Ge­or­gia, Anderson at Illi­nois. In the pros, Is­ner had won eight of 11 pre­vi­ous matchups. But this one was as close as can be.

There wasn’t a whole lot of in­trigue, or mo­men­tum shifts. The serv­ing, though, was some­thing else. Is­ner pounded his at up to 142 mph; Anderson reached 136 mph. They com­bined for 102 aces: 53 by Is­ner, 49 by Anderson.

“The ef­fort they both put in and the per­for­mance and the guts, the way they com­peted — a lot to be proud of,” said Justin Gimel­stob, one of Is­ner’s coaches.

Both failed to seize early op­por­tu­ni­ties. Is­ner wasted a set point in the opener. Anderson served for the third at 5-3, got bro­ken, and then had a pair of set points in that tiebreaker, dou­ble­fault­ing one away.

By the lat­ter stages, with break chances so rare, mur­murs would spread through the Cen­tre Court stands when­ever a game’s re­turner got to love-15 or love-30.


South Africa’s Kevin Anderson fires a serve to­ward John Is­ner in their 6-hour, 36-minute men’s semi­fi­nal match Fri­day at Wim­ble­don. The eighth-seeded Anderson from South Africa won the final set, 26-24 — a set that took nearly three hours to fin­ish.


Amer­i­can John Is­ner was seek­ing to reach the first Grand Slam final of his ca­reer, but he fell in five sets Fri­day to Kevin Anderson at Wim­ble­don.

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