An­der­son tops Is­ner in 6-hour epic

The Norwalk Hour - - SPORTS -

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⁄ hours of

2 ho-hum hold af­ter ho-hum hold, dur­ing the sec­ond­longest 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 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.

Fri­day’s fifth set wasn’t quite as long, but still, it lasted nearly 3 hours as the 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 right-han­der tum­bled to his back­side, scram­bled back to his feet and hit a shot

lefty.

“That def­i­nitely brings a smile to my face,” An­der­son said. “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 Sun­day’s fi­nal, his sec­ond at a ma­jor.

An­der­son was the run­ner-up to Rafael Nadal at last year’s U.S. Open. There could be a re­match now. An­der­son’s op­po­nent for the ti­tle will be Nadal or No­vak Djokovic, who be­gan their semi­fi­nal af­ter 8 p.m. on Fri­day even­ing. Be­cause it was so late, the All Eng­land Club shut the re­tractable roof above the main sta­dium be­tween the matches and turned on the arena’s ar­ti­fi­cial lights. That semi­fi­nal was even­tu­ally sus­pended. Djokovic led 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (9) af­ter sav­ing three set points in the tiebreaker. He con­verted his sec­ond set point when Nadal net­ted a back­hand beyond the tour­na­ment’s 11 p.m. cur­few. The match will re­sume on Satur­day.

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-foot-10 Is­ner go way back, to their col­lege days, Is­ner at Ge­or­gia, An­der­son at Illi­nois. In the pros, Is­ner had won 8 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 shot­mak­ing, 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.

“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, 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.

Could he ac­tu­ally come through?

Could this be it? Could we be about to see the sixth and last break of a match that would end up with 90 holds?

Re­peat­edly, the an­swer was, of course, “No,” even when An­der­son held break points at 7-all, 10-all and 17-all. The 10-all game ended with Is­ner hit­ting a fore­hand pass­ing win­ner on the run to hold, then let­ting his mo­men­tum carry him di­rectly to his side­line chair, where he plopped him­self down.

Ben Curtis / AFP / Getty Im­ages

John Is­ner re­turns a shot against Kevin An­der­son dur­ing Fri­day’s men’s semi­fi­nal at Wim­ble­don.

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