By Ros Satar, at Wimbledon
- Kevin Anderson  def. John Isner  7-6(6) 6-7(5) 6-7(9) 6-4 26-24
- Three thoughts on the impact of that semi-final
WIMBLEDON, UK – The 2018 Men’s semi-final will go down in history as the second longest match in history, but will have huge ramifications for the last two days of The Championships.
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From the moment the draw was announced, the jokes about the probable tie-breaks and fifth set decider had their roots in justifiable concern. In 2010, John Isner had taken part in a marathon first round match against Nicolas Mahut that lasted in total 11 hours, 5 minutes with an eventual score-line of 6-4 3-6 6-7(7) 7-6(3) 70-68.
At the time the match was deemed ‘historic’ but also unlikely to happen again, and so no decision had ever been made to change the rule.
Kevin Anderson had already downed Roger Federer in the quarter-finals, coming from two sets and a match-point down to win 13-11 in the final set, and had already described the prospect of facing Isner in the semi-final as a war of attrition.
It came as a surprise to no-one that the first three sets were decided by tie-breaks. At times it looked as though fortune would shine on Isner – he looked the more dominant especially after going 2-1 up. But much as he did against Federer, Anderson’s self-belief started to carry him through in the final set.
For all the many aces that were bombed down, there were solid rallies until finally it was Isner who flinched, allowing Anderson, who had struggled to make good on his break points chances in the decider finally got the break-though, serving out for a place in his first Wimbledon final, and his second Grand Slam final after six hours and 36 minutes.
In his immediate post-match press conference just inside the court, Anderson was emotional and could barely register what had just occurred.
Isner, despite having an injury to his heel and inevitable blisters, called for a change to the rules.
He said: “I feel pretty terrible. My left heel is killing me. I have an awful blister on my right foot. I’ve felt better before. You know, a few days’ rest, maybe more than that, and I’ll recoup and try to get all healed up again.
“I agree with Kevin. I personally think a sensible option would be 12-All. Can’t finish them off, if one person can’t finish the other off before 12-All, then do a tiebreaker there. I think it’s long overdue. I mean, I’m a big part of that, a big part of this discussion, of course.”
Anderson, coming into press a little later also elaborated on his thoughts about the rule.
“There’s no secret. I think if you ask the players, when you get stuck in these positions, playing such long matches, it’s very tiring. It’s very tough, playing six-and-a-half hours, whatever we were out there for.
“I personally don’t see the added value or benefit compared to, say, at the US Open where we’re playing tiebreaks in the fifth set. I mean, it’s no different decades ago when there were no tiebreaks at all. Matches were even longer then. I think progress was made to introduce a tiebreaker.
“I personally don’t see the reason not to include it now at least at all the slams. I mean, obviously John’s match in 2010 when it was ridiculous, I feel like a lot of people were talking about it then. Things didn’t change.
“It’s also tough being out there, listening to some of the crowd. Hopefully they appreciated the battle that we faced out there against each other, John and myself. But if you ask most of them, I’m sure they would have preferred to see a fifth-set tiebreaker, too. They’ve paid to see two matches, and they came pretty close to only seeing one match. I don’t see the other opposing view of not incorporating a fifth-set tiebreaker at all the slams.”
The impact on the Ladies’ final
As Anderson said – the crowd came quite close to only seeing one match, and if it had not been for the roof, albeit under curfew, it would have been a push to get even a set done in normal light.
As it was, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal managed to get three sets done just a little after the curfew, but it left a headache for the organisers, who had already had some issues especially on Manic Monday where they had even contemplated postponing Djokovic’s match had Anderson and Gael Monfils gone into a fifth set.
Serena Williams stands on the edge of history with a chance to tie Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam titles. Angelique Kerber has a chance to emulate one of her heroines and be the first German woman to win the Wimbledon title since Steffi Graf. With play on Ladies’ finals day now starting at 1pm and a ‘not before’ (i.e. no set time) for the Ladies’ final, it is another reason to consider having a fifth set tie-break at somewhere like 12-12.
The recovery & impact on the Gentlemen’s final
Anderson at least gets his day to recover, and the most that Djokovic or Nadal will have to play is two sets, but the day off that is coveted in Slams means that one of those players might feel justifiably shafted.
But given how Isner struggled in his second-round match, you have to wonder just how much Anderson will have left in the tank against either Djokovic or Nadal, against whom he could expect to run and run all day long.
Of course, next year – No. 1 Court will have a roof, so a lot of the scheduling faux pas that might have impacted the players in the frame for the title would have been negated, but for now we will just gaze towards the trusses ready to be mounted on the Court 1 roof, and wait for common sense to prevail.
The Gentlemen’s Singles final is scheduled for Sunday.
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