"Just playing like that, in those conditions, was really tough on both of us at the end, you know". John Isner of the USA reacts during his semi final match against South Africa's Kevin Anderson. An 11 p.m. curfew is imposed on night matches at Wimbledon. The match will resume Saturday ahead of the women's final between Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber.
Djokovic had two break points when Nadal was serving for the set, angrily remonstrating with himself when he failed to convert them before gifting the Spaniard the set with a backhand error.
But if Nadal rallies, he would encounter Anderson in a second grand slam final in less than a year, having toppled the 32-year-old at the US Open last September.
Isner was famously involved in the longest tennis match ever in 2010 at Wimbledon, when he beat Frenchman Nicolas Mahut, 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (3), 70-68 in a match that spanned three days and lasted 11 hours, 5 minutes.
But his record in fifth sets slumped to 9-18 overall, including defeats of 19-17, 18-16, 12-10 and now 26-24.
"There could be a little mental aspect in our match", Isner said on Wednesday. "My left heel is killing me".
"So I apologise if I'm not more excited right now because the mix of emotions getting through something like that is quite different".
Anderson agreed, adding: 'I really hope we can address this'.
The final set alone lasted for two hours and 50 minutes. The US Open is the lone major that has a tiebreak in the deciding set.
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.
"I personally think a sensible option would be 12-All".
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Numerous other players they kept hiding, and a little bit more in the last 20-25 minutes. I'd like to send out shirts to them! "Even their defenders are outstanding players".
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Anderson finished the match with 49 aces and 118 winners; Isner had 53 aces and 129 winners.
With the set tied at 24-24 Anderson somehow managed to break Isner's serve to lead 25-24 and then held to win an astonishing final set 26-24 and a place in his first Wimbledon final.
A total of 569 points were played, with Anderson winning 298 points and Isner winning 271.
Two hours and two sets in, they were even at one apiece, each via tiebreaker, with zero service breaks, only the very occasional extended point and aces by the dozen.
Back and fully healthy, Djokovic and Nadal should give us a match to see. Both are tall - Isner's 6-foot-10, Anderson 6-foot-8 - and lanky.
He had break points in the 15th, 21st and 35th games of the decider before taking victory when a tired Isner, who had needed treatment for blisters on his right hand, hit long.
The right-handed Anderson slipped and fell, but scrambled back to his feet in time to hit a return left-handed and continue the point before Isner eventually pushed a forehand just wide. Because it was so late, the All England Club shut the retractable roof above the main stadium between the matches and turned on the arena's artificial lights.
Wimbledon's lack of a fifth set tiebreaker in one of the things that makes the major unique.
One key area in which Anderson held the edge throughout was in unforced errors, as Isner committed 59 to just 24 for Anderson.