John Isner was one win away from his first career Grand Slam title.
Playing in his 41st career major tournament and first ever major semifinal, the former Georgia star and national champion fell to Kevin Anderson of South Africa in five epic sets on Friday at the All England Club.
After his 7-6 (8-6), 6-7 (5-7), 6-7 (9-11), 6-4, 26-24 victory that lasted more than six hours, Anderson advances to the Wimbledon Final on Sunday, when he will play the winner of the other semifinal between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
In a matchup of two of the tallest (Isner at 6 feet, 10 inches, Anderson at 6-8) and biggest-serving players on the ATP tour, Isner and Anderson expectedly played tiebreaks in each of the first three sets. Anderson won the opening set before Isner bounced back to take the next two.
After taking a medical timeout after the third set, Anderson surprisingly broke Isner’s serve at 2-all in the fourth. The former Bulldog broke right back to even the set once again.
Each player held his next serve before Anderson broke Isner again to go up 5-4 and then proceeded to serve out the set to send the match to a decisive fifth set.
At Wimbledon, there are no fifth-set tiebreaks, a rule with which Isner is extremely familiar, so one of the players was going to have to break the other’s serve at least once in order to reach the final.
That didn’t happen through the first 12 games of the last set, with each player holding serve to reach 6-all. Isner was serving first, with Anderson then having to hold each time in order to stay alive in the match.
Anderson had beaten 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer to reach the semifinal against Isner.
And another all-time great awaits him on Sunday in either Nadal or Djokovic. The Gentlemen’s Singles Final begins live from London on Sunday at 9 a.m. ET on ESPN.