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Kevin Anderson defeats John Isner in longest semifinal in Wimbledon history

Kevin Anderson defeats John Isner in longest semifinal in Wimbledon history

It started at 1 p.m. local time.

He had also gone five sets to beat eight-time champion Roger Federer in the quarter-finals, winning the decider 13-11.

"I don't even really know what to say right now", an exhausted Anderson told ESPN in the immediate aftermath of the victory.

"Just playing like that in those conditions was tough on both of us".

Many would argue Anderson and Isner deserve similar recognition after the friends warmly embraced at the net before receiving a standing ovation from tennis's most famous centre-court crowd.

Anderson and Isner, who were meeting for the 12th time in their professional careers, played an extremely even bout to decide who would take on the victor of Friday's later semifinal, between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Djokovic won that meeting in five sets, 7-5, 4-6, 7-6, 6-7, 6-3.

The show being put on by Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal was so good it could have been an instant classic had they been able to finish their semifinal before the tournament's 11 p.m. curfew.

It was also a delight to see twice victor Nadal firing on the grass.

As it became clear that Isner was due for another endless fifth set, tennis fans were far from delighted.

Friday's fifth set wasn't quite as long, but still, it lasted almost 3 hours as the semifinal became a test of endurance more than skill. "I think I can keep doing damage here", Isner said.

"We've been lined up against each other for about 14 years now, because he left IL when I left Georgia".

"I apologize I'm not more excited right now", he continued.

The match surpassed the previous record set by another five-setter between Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin del Potro in a 2013 semifinal.

That gave two players who have contested some of the most gruelling matches in tennis history less than three hours or the prospect of completing the match 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.

Three-time winner John McEnroe called for a rule change in commentary, suggesting there should be fifth-set tie-break at grand slams rather than wait for a clear victor.

Isner, who lost his second-round match in 2010 because he could barely move after beating Mahut, agreed. "I really feel for John", added Anderson, who has now made his second final at a Slam after finishing runner-up to Nadal at last year's US Open. In the fourth set, the American seemed to tire, with Anderson surging to a more conventional 6-4 win and seemingly ready to wrap it up.

Anderson, the No. 8 seed, ultimately prevailed 6-7 (6), 6-7 (5), 6-7 (9), 6-4, 26-24, with the fifth set alone lasting almost three hours.

The match was tight throughout, but Isner saved two set points in the third-set tiebreaker to take the lead.

Anderson's prize for his bittersweet victory over his former United States college friend and rival is a date on Sunday with either world number one Rafael Nadal or fellow grand slam giant Novak Djokovic.

He fashioned three break points from the next rally and took the second, the first break of the set.

Repeatedly, the answer was, of course, "No", even when Anderson held break points at 7-all, 10-all and 17-all.

"We don't want it to be 70-68, John", someone shouted from the crowd at 8-8. But where Isner is yet to be broken this tournament, Anderson has dropped serve nine times.

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.

Isner then shrugged off needing treatment on a blistered serving hand, found time to usher a ladybird to safety before levelling the match in another tiebreak off his 19th ace.