Comment: Kevin Anderson’s epic win likely to change Wimbledon forever

Kevin Anderson

Kevin Anderson’s epic victory over John Isner will go down in the annals of Wimbledon history as one of the most gruelling battles ever seen on the Centre Court – and it looks set to have a lasting impact on the greatest tennis tournament of them all.

Anderson secured his place in his first Wimbledon final after a 7-6, 6-7, 6-7, 6-4, 26-24 victory that was carved out over six hours and 36 brutally demanding minutes on the most famous tennis court in the world and long before the final ball was struck, it was clear that we were watching the last of these epics.

Wimbledon chiefs must have been pondering the prospect of moving Rafael Nadal’s semi-final against Novak Djokovic to Saturday, yet Anderson finally outlasted a jaded Isner to pave the way for the two favourites to take to the stage as the debate over what should happen next began in earnest.

Isner was famously involved in a record breaking match against Nicolas Maher that he won 70-68 at Wimbledon in 2010, with that match sparking a debate over the merits of fiver setters at Grand Slam events needing to be decided by a tie-break.

The decision eight years ago was to keep the status quo, with both the Australian Open and the French Open following Wimbledon’s lead by not having a fifth set breaker, but that now looks certain to change.

“I hope this is a sign for Grand Slams to change,” declared Anderson after the match. “For us to be out there for that length of time. I really hope we can look at this because at the end you don’t feel great.

“I have to recover as much as I can for the final now. It will take time to process it but I’m in the final of Wimbledon and that’s a dream come true.”

Tellingly, Wimbledon committee member Tim Henman echoed those sentiments as he spoke to the BBC, with his strong hint that we have seen the last enduring five-setting at The Championships coming with these comments.

“We looked at it eight years ago after the Isner-Mahut match, but it was felt then that it was a one-off,” stated Henman. “Now it has to be considered again. This is a semi-final of a Grand Slam and a guy has played for six-and-a-half hours before he is expected to come back and play a final on Sunday. That doesn’t seem fair.”

The mood prevailing Centre Court for most of the last two hours of the Anderson v Isner battle was that those in attendance wanted a winner and didn’t care who it was. The celebrations at the end were as much a toast for the end of the war as much as a celebration for Anderson’s win and that is not how Wimbledon semi-finals should end.

Tedious may be a crude word to describe two big-servers who battered each other into submission, but this was not a sporting spectacle the world needed to see for such an extended period of time.

While many tennis fans relish the five-setters that will have twists and turns along the way, we may have witnessed a match that will be etched into history as a game changer for tennis.

Kevin Palmer