LONDON (AP) — John Isner already had won the longest match in Wimbledon — and tennis — history. And now he’s lost the second-longest one ever played at the All England Club.
So there’s not much better an authority to weigh in on whether it’s time for fifth-set tiebreakers at all Grand Slam tournaments. Actually, both Isner and Kevin Anderson, the man who won their Wimbledon semifinal 26-24 in the final set after more than 6 1/2 hours Friday, agree a switch is necessary.
“I’m a proponent of changing that rule, for sure,” Isner said. “I think it needs to be done.”
The 33-year-old American is best known, of course, for beating Nicolas Mahut 70-68 in the fifth set of an 11-hour, 5-minute match that was contested over three days in Wimbledon’s first round in 2010.
This one seems rather tidy by comparison: Anderson won 7-6 (6), 6-7 (5), 6-7 (9), 6-4, 26-24. Still, Isner did jokingly ask chair umpire Marija Cicak at one point during the last set whether they could play a tiebreaker.
That’s how the U.S. Open settles things at 6-all in the fifth set of a men’s singles match — or at 6-all in the third set for women — and has since 1970.
But the other three Grand Slam tournaments all play on until one player wins by two games.
“It’s way beyond a normal tennis match or tactics. I mean, it’s just who’s going to outlast each other,” said Anderson, a 32-year-old from South Africa who is seeking his first major trophy. “It’s pretty tough in the format that we have right now, especially at Slams. I mean, it’s not easy in that setting at the end.”
He and Isner suggested one possible compromise: a tiebreaker at 12-all.
“A sensible option,” Isner called it.
Anderson noted that some members of the Centre Court crowd were ready for his match to end, so that the day’s second semifinal, between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, could begin.
One spectator called out, “Come on, guys! We want to see Rafa!”
“If you ask most of them, I’m sure they would have preferred to see a fifth-set tiebreaker, too. They’ve paid to see two matches, and they came pretty close to only seeing one match,” Anderson said. “I don’t see the other opposing view of not incorporating a fifth-set tiebreaker at all the Slams.”
Now he’s going to have to use Saturday to try to rest and recover so he can give it his best shot in Sunday’s final.
Isner had nothing left to give after his 70-68 record-setter eight years ago, and lost his next match.
Of course, Isner would love to have to deal with such problems now.
He also would love it if this were never again an issue.
“I think it’s long overdue,” Isner said. “I mean, I’m a big part of that, a big part of this discussion, of course.”
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