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Kevin Anderson, John Isner support introduction of fifth-set tiebreakers after Wimbledon marathon match


LONDON — Both Kevin Anderson and John Isner reiterated calls to introduce fifth-set tiebreakers at all Grand Slam tournaments after they played out an incredible 6½-hour semifinal at Wimbledon on Friday.

Anderson eventually prevailed 7-6 (6), 6-7 (5), 6-7 (9), 6-4, 26-24 in 6 hours, 36 minutes — the longest recorded men’s semifinal at a major and longest match ever on Centre Court — to reach Sunday’s men’s final at the All England Club, with the deciding set lasting nearly three hours.

As a result, Friday’s second semifinal between world No. 1 Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will finish Saturday after Friday’s 11 p.m. local curfew stopped the match.

Out of the four tennis majors — the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open — fifth-set tiebreakers have been introduced only at Flushing Meadows. With both Anderson and Isner exhausted from their mammoth efforts on court, the discussion to abandon tradition and change rules was a hot topic in media sessions.

“I personally don’t see the added value or benefit compared to, say, at the US Open where we’re playing tiebreaks in the fifth set,” said South Africa’s Anderson, who also won a deciding fifth set 13-11 to knock out defending champion Roger Federer in the quarterfinals Wednesday. “It’s no different decades ago when there were no tiebreaks at all. Matches were even longer then. I think progress was made to introduce a tiebreaker.

“It’s also tough being out there, listening to some of the crowd. Hopefully they appreciated the battle that we faced out there against each other, John and myself. But 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.”

Isner is no stranger to the topic, either. At Wimbledon in 2010, the American won 70-68 in the final set to end an 11-hour, first-round clash with Nicolas Mahut, played over three days in London and the longest match ever.

Isner, 33, agreed with Anderson’s take.

“I personally think a sensible option would be 12-all,” Isner said. “If one person can’t finish the other off before 12-all, then do a tiebreaker there. I think it’s long overdue.

“Rafa and Djokovic, I don’t even know, can they finish tonight [Friday]? Isn’t there some curfew? They’re getting on the court at 8:15, whatever it is. We’re out there playing for seven hours. I’m a proponent of changing that rule, for sure. I think it needs to be done.”

Anderson, 32, is also an advocate of the 12-all scenario and was quick to point out the impact on a player’s health.

“If a match is 12-all in the fifth set, I don’t think it needs to continue,” Anderson added. “The amount of times it gets to that point is pretty rare. I think it protects the players’ health as well. Because being out there for this length can be pretty damaging from a health standpoint, too.”

There was double disappointment for Isner, who had to endure urine and blood tests after his defeat and apologised for being late for his post-match news conference.

“Didn’t want to get fined,” Isner said. “I had to do a urine test, and I have blood afterwards. Lucky me.”



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