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South African beats American Isner in epic Wimbledon match of more than 6 hours

Kevin Anderson of South Africa in action during his seminfinal match against American John Isner on Day 11 at All England Lawn and Croquet Club on Friday. Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

LONDON -- In the longest semifinal match in Wimbledon history, eighth-seeded South African Kevin Anderson outlasted ninth-seeded American John Isner 7-6 (6), 6-7 (5), 6-7 (9), 6-4, 26-24 on Friday, July 13, at the All England Club.

The match lasted 6 hours, 36 minutes -- the second-longest match in any major in history. Anderson will need to continue waiting to find out his next opponent, as Friday's later semifinal between second-seeded Spaniard Rafael Nadal and 12th-seeded Serbian Novak Djokovic was suspended after three sets due to darkness.

Djokovic holds a 2-1 lead in sets after claiming the third-set tiebreaker, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (9). The match will resume Saturday, July 14, on Centre Court.

The previous longest semifinal match at Wimbledon was in 2013, when Djokovic beat Juan Martín del Potro in 4 hours, 44 minutes. Djokovic lost in the final to Andy Murray that year.

It also broke the record for the longest single-day match at Wimbledon, which was 5 hours, 31 minutes. Marin Cilic beat Sam Querrey in that 2012 third-round match.

“I don't really know what to say right now,” a clearly drained Anderson said immediately after the match. “Just playing like that, in those conditions, was really tough on both of us at the end, you know. You feel like this is a draw between the two of us, but somebody has to win. John's such a great guy and I really feel for him because, you know, if I'd been on the opposite side, I don't know how you can take that, playing for so long and coming out short.

“I apologize I'm not more excited right now,” he continued. “So many mixed emotions getting through something like that is, you know, is quite different.”

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.

Isner hadn't been broken in London throughout his run to his first Grand Slam championship semifinal.

“I feel pretty terrible,” said Isner. “My left heel is killing me. I have an awful blister on my right foot. I've felt better before. A few days' rest, maybe more than that, and I'll recoup and try to get all healed up again.

“Hats off to Kevin. He stayed the course incredibly well, played very well. It was a good win for him. He earned it, so. He played pretty well, I think, in the fifth set. I didn't have many chances.”

The match was tight throughout, but Isner saved two set points in the third-set tiebreaker to take the lead. Anderson broke Isner's serve for the first time in 110 service games at Wimbledon earlier in the set.

Anderson again broke the hard-serving American in the fourth set on his way to forcing a deciding set.

In the fifth set, Anderson broke Isner's serve at 24-24 to take command. Isner was 8-3 lifetime versus Anderson coming into the match. Isner had also won the last five meetings between the former college rivals (Isner went to Georgia, Anderson went to Illinois).

Nadal and Djokovic, meanwhile, are in the midst of their 52nd meeting, with Djokovic holding the edge 26-25. The two each held serve through the first six games of the first set before Djokovic broke Nadal on his way to a 5-3 lead. The Serbian would go on to serve out the set in the 10th game.

Nadal battled back in the second, taking leads of 3-1 and 5-2 while breaking Djokovic twice. The Spaniard fought off two break points to win the set in the ninth game.

Both players held serve all the way through the third set and into the tiebreaker, which saw Nadal fail to convert three separate set-point opportunities, including one on his own serve. Djokovic finally claimed it on his second chance.

Through the first three sets, Djokovic holds a decisive edge in aces (13-2). He has 42 winners compared to 39 for Nadal, though his 29 unforced errors are more than the 22 the top-ranked Spaniard has.