WIMBLEDON, England — Let’s start with the score: 7-6 (6), 6-7 (5), 6-7 (9) 6-4, 26-24.
And the time: 6 hours 36 minutes.
Tennis matches generally do not carry on quite like this — unless they involve John Isner. His ultramarathon loss to Kevin Anderson, by that score and over all those hours, in the Wimbledon semifinals on Friday amounted to the longest Grand Slam singles semifinal in tennis history.
The longest match ever was Isner’s victory at Wimbledon in 2010 over Nicolas Mahut, 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (3), 70-68, in the first round. That one took three days to complete and officially lasted 11 hours 5 minutes.
Anderson’s win was only the first semifinal of the day. Second-seeded Rafael Nadal and 12th-seeded Novak Djokovic took the court after Isner and Anderson, about 8:10 p.m. local time. The Centre Court roof was closed so that the players could continue to play under the lights. An 11 p.m. curfew is imposed on night matches at Wimbledon.
Anderson, a 32-year-old South African, reached the United States Open final last year and pulled off a quarterfinal upset here on Wednesday of top-seeded Roger Federer, which went to 13-11 in the fifth set.
Friday proved to be another long day for Anderson, who said after the match that he hoped the 50-game fifth set would be “a sign for Grand Slams to change.” Of the four Grand Slam events, only the United States Open uses a final-set tiebreaker.
At his 41st major tournament, Isner, 33, was playing his first Grand Slam semifinal and was trying to become the first American man since 2009 to reach a major final.
The 6-foot-10 Isner and the 6-foot-8 Anderson had played 11 times before on tour, but they also faced each other in college, including in the 2007 N.C.A.A. finals, which Isner won.
As expected in a match between very tall men with booming serves, the first three sets were decided in tiebreakers. But there were, in fact, several breaks of serve. The most important came with Isner serving at 24-24. In a fifth set that lasted 2 hours 55 minutes, Anderson never faced a break point.