Anderson, Isner demand change after Wimbledon epic

The players called on rule-makers to introduce a cut-off point for final set marathons.

Marathon men: Kevin Anderson (left) and John Isner shake hands after their six-hour long semifinal contest.   -  AFP

Kevin Anderson and John Isner called for Grand Slam chiefs to introduce a cut-off point for final set marathons after their Wimbledon semifinal entered the record books as the second longest ever singles match at a major.

Anderson survived Friday's endurance test, beating Isner 7-6 (8/6), 6-7 (5/7), 6-7 (9/11), 6-4, 26-24 in six hours and 36 minutes. The final set lasted just five minutes short of three hours.

The 32-year-old Anderson is the first South African man since Brian Norton 97 years ago to reach the Wimbledon final. He will now face either Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal in Sunday’s final. Their eagerly-awaited semifinal was halted just after 11pm (2200GMT) under a curfew agreement with Djokovic leading Nadal 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (11/9).

The match will finish on Saturday.

‘Tough’

Anderson made it clear Grand Slam tournament organisers should consider a rule change to make the deciding set of five-set matches less gruelling. “I hope this is a sign for Grand Slams to change. For us to be out there for that length of time. I really hope we can look at this, because at the end you don't feel great,” said Anderson who has been on court for over 21 hours at these championships.

He had also taken five sets to beat eight-time champion Roger Federer in the quarterfinals, winning the decider 13-11.

“Just playing like that in those conditions was tough on both of us,” added. “If I was on the opposite (losing) side I don't know how you take it.”

‘Long overdue’

Isner previously won the longest ever Grand Slam singles match against Nicolas Mahut, lasting 11 hours and five minutes over three days in the 2010 Wimbledon first round. The 33-year-old agreed with Anderson that Wimbledon, the Australian Open and Roland Garros should fall in line with the US Open and introduce a tiebreak in the final set.

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“I agree with Kevin. I personally think a sensible option would be 12-All,” said Isner, who was bidding to reach his first Slam final at the 41st attempt. “If one person can't finish the other off before 12-All, then do a tiebreaker. I think it's long overdue.”

Isner finished the tournament with a record 221 aces.

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Until Friday, he had not dropped serve until Anderson halted that run at 110 service games in the third set. “I feel pretty terrible. My left heel is killing me. I have an awful blister on my right foot. I've felt better before,” said Isner who had also been hoping to be the first American man in a Slam final since Andy Roddick at Wimbledon in 2009.

Isner said that being part of yet another record-breaking match did not help ease his pain. “That's no consolation to me. I'm not going to hang my hat on that, for sure,” he said.

Longest semifinal

Friday's epic, which finished shortly before 8pm forcing Nadal and Djokovic to start under the roof, was the longest semifinal ever played at Wimbledon, surpassing the four hours 44 minutes it took Djokovic to beat Juan Martin del Potro in 2013. It also passed the previous mark for the second longest match at a Slam of six hours and 33 minutes which Fabrice Santoro spent seeing off Arnaud Clement in the 2004 French Open.

“It feels like it's a draw but somebody has to win. I really feel for John,” added Anderson, who has now made his second final at a Slam after finishing runner-up to Nadal at last year's US Open. Anderson finished the match with 49 aces and 118 winners; Isner had 53 aces and 129 winners.

He had break points in the 15th, 21st and 35th games of the decider before taking victory when a weary Isner, who had needed treatment for blisters on his right hand, hit long. “It just seems cruel and unusual punishment for these guys,” former champion John McEnroe said on the BBC.

Anderson will now attempt to overturn a losing record against his final opponent. He stands at 0-5 with Nadal and 1-5 against Djokovic.

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