Anderson wins marathon semi­fi­nal

Final still not set with Djokovic-Nadal sus­pended in fourth set

Pawtucket Times - - SPORTS - By HOWARD FEN­DRICH

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 6 1/2 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 2624 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 7068 in the fifth on Court 18, which now bears a plaque com­mem­o­rat­ing it.

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., 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’s ar­ti­fi­cial lights were turned on. Now they’ll come back Satur­day 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.

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-year-old 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 musthave, 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.

“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.

“It’s long over­due,” said Is­ner, who sug­gested chang­ing the rule to us­ing a tiebreaker at 12-all in the fifth set. “I’m a big part of that, and a big part of this dis­cus­sion, of course.”

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. Not a tremen­dous amount of mem­o­rable shot-mak­ing, ei­ther, save for some im­pres­sive re­turn win­ners.

And the serv­ing? Well, that 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.

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