Anderson had a strong chance to secure the third set and potentially keep the match from going the distance - as Anderson's round of 16 and quarterfinal bouts did. Both players had multiple break opportunities, but 21st seed Djokovic sealed the set after another exacting rally to take a one-set advantage into Saturday. The record, funnily enough, was set by Isner.
"I feel pretty bad", Isner said afterward.
Into the decider they went, and a grim treadmill of service holds persisted until, at 17-17 all, Anderson found himself with two break points, only for two aces to prolong proceedings. The third-set tiebreak between Djokovic and Nadal finished at 11:02 p.m., and an announcement was made immediately that play had been suspended.
He faced his friend and old college foe Kevin Anderson in the semifinals Friday, where he lost in a game that lasted more than six hours.
"If you ask majority, I'm sure they would have preferred to see a fifth-set tiebreaker, too". Djokovic retired in that match because of a toe blister.
It was the second longest singles match ever played at a Grand Slam.
Isner hadn't even been as far as the quarterfinals at any Slam since 2011, until making a run at the grass-court tournament where he is best known for having won the longest match in tennis history, 70-68 in the fifth set against Nicolas Mahut in 2010.
Some fans were shocked and awed by the sheer length and absurdity of the contest, while others also voiced a frustration with the first match of the day delaying the real headliner - the semifinal matchup between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
He never got a break point in the fifth set.
"Friday is another important match against an opponent that is one of the most hard ones that you can face".
But not only did Anderson jump back to his feet, the South African astonishingly switched his racket into his left hand and, gripping it half way up the handle, hit a forehand to get the ball back and take the point before he broke and then went on to win the match. The defeat especially stings because marathon play is nothing new to the 33-year-old American.
The ridiculous length of the Anderson-Isner clash left Nadal and Djokovic waiting until 8pm local time before stepping on court for their box office semi-final.
"The effort they both put in and the performance and the guts, the way they competed - a lot to be proud of", said Justin Gimelstob, one of Isner's coaches.
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