Nadal, Djokovic clash becomes second longest semi-final at Wimbledon

Nadal, Djokovic clash becomes second longest semi-final at Wimbledon

Held in the backdrop of a waterfall with the audience watching, it is gladiatorial fight to the death.

It was a second day of epic drama at the All England Club after Kevin Anderson had needed 6 hours and 36 minutes to beat John Isner on Friday.

Djokovic led by two sets to one when play was halted on Friday evening and the Serb returned under the Centre Court roof to win the second longest men's semi-final in Wimbledon history at five hours and 14 minutes. That one took three days to complete and officially lasted 11 hours 5 minutes. But the ex-Illini had his serve broken in Game 9 of that set before he double-faulted while up 8-7 in the tiebreaker.

Anderson had break points in the 15th, 21st and 35th games of the decider before taking victory when a tired Isner hit long. And it came in suitably dramatic fashion.

But while Anderson and Isner's titanic tussle was more an exercise in totting up aces, this was a cast-iron classic.

The three-time champion had a tiny bit more than Nadal at the end and grabbed the crucial break of serve at 9-8 up to close out another phenomenal match.

Anderson will play again in the final on Sunday - hopefully there, a victor will be decided in four sets or less. He then botched a backhand into the net, and the rest, was courtesy.

The match wasn't just notable because it was long. At stake is a place in Sunday's men's final against the man who was partly at fault for keeping Nadal and Djokovic out there so late. But Nadal did not waver, coming back with a hold and a break to go up 5-3.

That's 99 games, 102 combined aces and 569 points. "These kind of matches you live for and work for".

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Nadal will regret his missed opportunity the night before, when he was in the ascendancy but passed up two set points. Both had chances, but the tiebreaks were also tied one each. Isner and Anderson, both giants capable of enormous serves, just kept blasting the ball past each other, trading service and sides of the court as the rules dictated, but rarely ever competing in a compelling rally.

Isner is an exceptional server - one of the best ever, if not the best. Indeed, the only error the South African committed in the second set was on set point. "It is what it is, I'm in the final of Wimbledon and it's an incredible achievement for me". Anderson, who typically shows a reserved demeanor, would frequently fist-pump after winning a point. He repeatedly sent serves back at Nadal's feet, forcing errors and taking control of the point. "Yes, I mean, it's hard for me to play tennis and not believe that I can be the best in what I do".

If there were two tennis players prepared for this long-drawn combat, they were these two.

The fifth set alone lasted almost 3 hours as the semifinal became a test of endurance more than skill.

Anderson, a 32-year-old South African, reached the U.S. Open final last year and pulled off a quarterfinal upset Wednesday of top-seeded Roger Federer, which went to 13-11 in the fifth set. The memes started flooding Twitter, jokes came faster than the winners. Djokovic retired in that match because of a toe blister. He was already leaning on his racquet for support. It's way beyond a normal tennis match or tactics.

"A sensible option", Isner called it.

"In my opinion, he deserved it", Nadal said.

Anderson was so exhausted, he didn't have the energy to actually celebrate what is, till now, the biggest win of his career. His performance matched his ideal season as he won his third Grand Slam of the calendar year.

Play is scheduled to resume Saturday at 1pm local time (7pm Thailand time), before the women's final between Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber.

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