Kevin Anderson and John Isner battle for six hours and 36 minutes — the longest singles semi-final at the All England Club.
Anderson is first South African man to reach Wimbledon final for 97 years.
It was a case of better late than never as Kevin Anderson reached his first Wimbledon final after a heart-stopping 7-6(6), 6-7(5), 6-7(9), 6-4, 26-24 victory over the sport’s perennial marathon man John Isner on Friday.
After being kept on the run for six hours and 36 minutes, the longest ever singles semi-final at the All England Club, how he was still standing was anyone’s guess.
Playing Isner, who is enshrined in Wimbledon folklore for winning the “endless match” – an 11 hour five minute humdinger against Nicolas Mahut in 2010 – Anderson needed five nerve-shredding sets to topple the American and become the first South African man to reach the Wimbledon final for 97 years.
A showdown between two tennis skyscrapers – with Isner topping the 6 foot 8 Anderson by two inches – predictably featured three tiebreaks and 102 thunderbolt aces but it was the South African who delivered the knockout blow.
After watching Isner strike a weary forehand wide, Anderson advanced to the Wimbledon final at the 10th time of asking.
The eighth seed will face either twice champion Rafael Nadal od Spain or three-times winner Novak Djokovic in Sunday’s final. The Serb was leading in the second semi-final 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(9) when play was suspended for the day.
Brian Norton was the last South African man to reach the final in 1921.
History books will show that Anderson came out on top in the 7-6(6), 6-7(5), 6-7(9), 6-4, 26-24 epic, but those numbers fail to illustrate the astonishing feats of endurance shown by the two gladiators on the most famous stage in tennis.
The match featured 102 thunderbolt aces, 264 unreturned serves and 247 bone-rattling winners, but none of those will stand out as much as the heart and desire of the two combatants as both tried to reach to a first Wimbledon final.
When Isner finally slapped a weary forehand wide at 7.46 pm local time, there were no wild roars, no fist pumping and no raised arms in celebration from Anderson.
All the 32-year-old had left in him was to give Isner a sympathetic hug after he came out on top in the second-longest match ever contested at the All England Club.