South African wins marathon semi­fi­nal at Wimbledon, writes Howard Fen­drich.

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - 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 61/2 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 26-24 in the fifth set Fri­day with An­der­son claim­ing the most im­por­tant of the 569 points — the last one.

So when An­der­son left Cen­tre Court, well aware 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 three 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-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.”

Also Fri­day, the lone Cana­dian re­main­ing at Wimbledon, Gabriela Dabrowski of Ot­tawa and part­ner Yi­fan Xu of China, seeded sixth, lost 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 to No. 12 seeds Ni­cole Melichar of the U.S. and Kveta Peschke of the Czech Repub­lic in women’s dou­bles semi­fi­nal ac­tion.

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

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.

the ti­tle will be Nadal or No­vak Djokovic, who had their semi­fi­nal sus­pended af­ter three sets later Fri­day evening. Djokovic, the No. 12 seed, had a 2-1 edge af­ter win­ning the third set 7-6, coming on the heels of a 6-4 open­ing-set win. Nadal won 6-3 in the sec­ond set. The match will be re­sumed early 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 would 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.

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

The six-foot-eight An­der­son and six-foot-10 Is­ner go way back to their col­lege days, Is­ner at Ge­or­gia and 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 shot­mak­ing, ei­ther, save for some im­pres­sive re­turn win­ners.

And the serv­ing? Well, that was some­thing else. Is­ner pounded his at up to 142 m.p.h.; An­der­son reached 136 m.p.h. 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.

“I feel pretty ter­ri­ble,” Is­ner said after­ward.

“My left heel is killing me and I have an aw­ful blis­ter on my right foot.”

Is­ner never got a break point in the fifth set. An­der­son fi­nally came through on his sixth for a 25-24 lead, when Is­ner wearily put a back­hand into the net.

Then An­der­son served out the vic­tory, with Is­ner sail­ing a fore­hand wide on match point.

Soon, they were meet­ing for an em­brace.


Amer­i­can John Is­ner, left, meets up with Kevin An­der­son of South Africa at the net fol­low­ing their epic five-set semi­fi­nal match on Fri­day at Wimbledon. An­der­son pre­vailed in what is now the sec­ond-long­est match in the his­tory of a tour­na­ment that be­gan in 1877.

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