Anderson outlasts marathon man Isner
Wimbledon's marathon man John Isner was at it again, but this time he was outlasted by Kevin Anderson in an extraordinary six-hour 36-minute semi-final, the third-longest singles match in history.
It was going to take something special to separate these gladiators as they went ace for ace, blow for blow, punch for punch and finished with the light beginning to fade.
The epic duly got the ending that it deserved. In the 49th game of the fifth set, at love-15 up, Anderson slipped at the back of the court. He fell to the ground, so did his racket, but when Isner put his return into the centre of the court, Anderson picked up his forehand left-handed and got his return back into play to win the point. Hollywood eat your heart out.
For the fourth consecutive Isner service game, Anderson was love-30 up. On every previous occasion, Isner's blunderbuss serve had come to his rescue.
Not this time. A second serve was the opportunity that Anderson had been praying for and he duly hit a forehand winner to engineer three break points.
Again Isner was used to staring down the barrel, having previously faced four previous break points in this marathon final set, which was approaching the three-hour mark.
Each time he had produced an ace to save his skin. A fifth was saved with a serve and volley, but he could not repeat the trick, at 15-40 putting a backhand into the net.
The crowd celebrated raucously, as much with relief as anything else, but the job was not yet done and Anderson had to serve out the match.
What must have been going through the 32-year-old's head? On two of the three games that he had broken Isner, the American had broken straight back.
This time he held his nerve as Isner put a forehand into the tramlines.
There were no wild celebrations from Anderson, despite becoming the first South African man in 97 years to reach a Wimbledon final, in part because of exhaustion, in part in sympathy for his vanquished foe, who eight years ago took part in the longest match in history in his 11-hour 5-minute conquest of Nicolas Mahut. Isner did not want his career to be defined by that match.
Fate obviously has a sick sense of humour.
Anderson's victory is even more remarkable when you consider that in the last 16 he went three and a half hours against Gael Monfils and became only the fifth man to come from two sets down to beat Roger Federer in a four-hour quarter-final. We all thought that would be his piece de resistance. How wrong we were.
"I don't know what to say right now," Anderson said. "Just playing like that in those conditions was tough on both of us.
"You feel like it is a draw, but someone has to win. John is a great guy and I feel for him.
"If I was on the opposite side I don't know how you take it, getting through something like that is quite different.
"To be honest he has pushed me through my career and had a great one himself. I have pushed myself harder because of the success he has had. I have to say congratulations to John on a great tournament and hopefully he can come back stronger."
Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic will resume their semi-final today with the Serb two sets to one ahead after winning the third set tie-break 11-9. (© Daily Telegraph, London).