An­der­son de­feats Is­ner in marathon

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS -

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 6½ hours Fri­day.

The fifth set alone lasted nearly 3 hours as the semi­fi­nal 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 lefty.

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 in the fifth. That was played 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. Be­tween that and the en­ergy-sap­per against Is­ner, 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 U.S. Open, and there could be a re­match now.

No­vak Djokovic was lead­ing 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. lo­cal time, the cur­few at the All Eng­land Club. Some peo­ple in the stands booed the de­ci­sion to halt the match.

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 lights were turned on. Now they’ll come back to­day to fig­ure out who will face An­der­son in Sun­day’s fi­nal.

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

The ex­pec­ta­tion was that the first semi­fi­nal Fri­day would be a tight con­test filled with tiebreak­ers — and that’s pre­cisely what it was.

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 go­ing on and on and on — and that’s pre­cisely what Is­ner and An­der­son did, of­ten thanks to one ho-hum hold af­ter an­other.

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

An­der­son and Is­ner go way back, to their days when they played in col­lege, Is­ner at Ge­or­gia, An­der­son at Illi­nois.

There is not much dif­fer­ence be­tween them. Both are tall — Is­ner is 6-foot-10, An­der­son 6-foot-8 — and lanky. Both wore a white base­ball hat, An­der­son with the brim in front, Is­ner with his turned back­ward.

In the pros, Is­ner has 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.

There was not a ton of in­trigue or mo­men­tum shifts, not a whole lot of mem­o­rable shot­mak­ing, ei­ther, save for some im­pres­sive re­turn win­ners.

But the serv­ing 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.

Both had chances to gain the up­per hand much ear­lier Fri­day. 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 4-4 in the fourth, it was Is­ner who fal­tered, get­ting bro­ken. This time, An­der­son served out the set, avoid­ing a tiebreaker.

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

Could he ac­tu­ally come through? Could this be it? Could we be about to see the sixth and last break?

Re­peat­edly, the an­swer was “No,” even when An­der­son smacked a re­turn win­ner at Is­ner’s feet to get to break point at 7-7, 30-40. Is­ner saved that with a 127-mph ace, then added a pair of ser­vice win­ners at 132 mph and 139 mph to hold and yelled, “That’s it!” An­other break point for An­der­son ar­rived at 10-10, 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.

Who could blame him for need­ing a breather?

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.

AP/GLYN KIRK

Kevin An­der­son (left) of South Africa de­feated Amer­i­can John Is­ner in the men’s Wim­ble­don semi­fi­nals Fri­day in the long­est match ever at Cen­tre Court. An­der­son won the fifth set 26-24.

AP/GLYN KIRK

Kevin An­der­son cel­e­brates win­ning a point from John Is­ner dur­ing their Wim­ble­don men’s sin­gles semi­fi­nal match Fri­day in Lon­don. An­der­son won the long­est Cen­tre Court match in his­tory, edg­ing Is­ner 7-6 (6), 6-7 (5), 6-7 (9), 6-4, 26-24 in a match that lasted more than 6½ hours.

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