London—Today showcased what Wimbledon is all about, featuring a semi-final match that would go the distance by way of the tournament’s old-school rules.
John Isner, the last American male in the English Grand Slam tournament faced off against South African Kevin Anderson in a semi-final that would eclipse over 6 hours of match play. This match would determine who would play the winner of the other semi-final, featuring to tennis greats in Rafael Nadal vs. Novak Djokovic. What started out as another fine day at Wimbledon for some awesome action turned into an all-out dog-fight that would go serve for serve, rally fo rally, until Anderson was able to walk away victorious.
The match started late on Friday morning, and it seemed like it would be a day to remember, right off the back. The first three sets would come to tiebreakers, and the players would go back and forth trying to gain the upper hand with little wiggle room of lead in between. Isner was able to capture the lead after the third set, with a score of two sets to one. It did not feel like the case at all though. There was little to no separation of score between these opponents. Both of the athletes have quite similar frames and skill in their individual play.
Anderson, who is 32, stands at 6’8 and has a crushing serve, just like that of Isner. He is ranked at the eight seed for the tournament. His ground game is decent overall, and he has a great skill set at the net, being that he is very advantaged at height. It does make him less agile, as he is unable to cover the court like players such as Nadal or Federer. This is the exact same skillset that Isner possesses. His 6’10 frame is one of the largest at Wimbledon. He is 33-years old and was ranked the ninth seed, which is right at the heels of Anderson. The American’s serves are by far the best part of his game, as in the fifth set tie-breaker he was still slamming balls in on his first services at around 130 mph. He is also a great net player, but again like Anderson has a weaker ground game and is less agile. Isner also has a weak backhand stroke, that Anderson would look to target and take advantage of during long rallies to win points later on in the match.
As the semi-final continued on late into Friday, with Anderson closing out the fourth set with a score of 6-4, the crowd started to feel that this match would not be ending any time soon. I say this because in the fifth set at Wimbledon is played with old school rules. Instead of having a tiebreaker in the fifth set when two players reach a score of 6 games apiece, the players will play until one gets a two-game-lead over the other. Games consist of winning 4 points (15, 30, 40, game) by way of service (serving to your opponent). If the two players tie at the third point, they must then win two points in a row to win the game. That in-game tiebreaker is known as a deuce. The games switch back and forth between service for players.
In the end, the rules of Wimbledon can lead to long, drawn out match play. That is exactly the case that occurred between Anderson and Isner. Although these grueling matches do not occur that often, it seems that John Isner is always a part of them. The match today is the longest single-day match ever recorded in London, but is the second longest match in tournament history. The first occurred back in 2010 when Isner matched up with Nicolas Mahut. The play would go on for three days, and the score in the fifth set would be 70 games to 68. Isner out-lasted Mahut in an 11-hour grudge fest. It’s incredible to see one man be able to repeatedly create such lengthy and intense play, but sadly Isner was unable to secure the win on Friday. Anderson comes away with the victory with a score of 7-6 (6), 6-7(5), 6-7(9), 6-4, 26-24.