LONDON — It took 99 games and three tiebreakers over five sets that took well over 6 hours, but South African Kevin Anderson finally reached the final at Wimbledon on Friday.
Anderson won the longest Centre Court match in history and earned a chance to try to collect his first Grand Slam championship, edging American John Isner 7-6 (6), 6-7 (5), 6-7 (9), 6-4, 26-24 in a 6-hour, 36-minute marathon.
The fifth set alone lasted nearly 3 hours as the semifinal became a test of endurance more than skill. Anderson, the No. 8 seed, finally earned the must-have, go-ahead service break with the help of a point in which the right-hander tumbled to his backside, scrambled back to his feet and hit a shot lefty.
Anderson had break points at 7-7, 10-10 and 17-17 before finally earning the decisive break — drawing a massive roar from the crowd. He then converted his first match point when Isner sent a shot wide.
The 99 total games made it the longest Grand Slam semifinal match in the Open Era, beating the previous mark of 90 set by Rod Laver and Tony Roche in the 1969 Australian Open.
It will be the second Grand Slam final for Anderson, who became the first South African male to reach the Wimbledon final since 1921. He reached the final of the US Open last year before losing to Rafael Nadal.
The match shattered Wimbledon semifinal records for number of games (the previous record was 72) as well as duration — besting the previous mark by 1 hour, 52 minutes.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t the longest match in Wimbledon history. Isner was a part of that one as well in 2010, beating Nicolas Mahut 70-68 in the fifth set after 11 hours, 5 minutes — the longest match at any tournament.
Isner also broke the record for most aces in a Wimbledon tournament. His 53 on Friday gave him 214 for the fortnight, beating the mark of 213 set by champion Goran Ivanisevic in 2001.
Not to be outdone, Anderson had 49 aces of his own in the match.
Anderson, 32, will vie for the title on Sunday against the winner of the match between Nadal, the world No. 1, and three-time champion Novak Djokovic. Because of the length of the first match, that semifinal will be played with the roof closed.
Nadal has 17 major titles, two at the All England Club. Djokovic owns 12 Slam trophies, three from Wimbledon.
Anderson also played an extended fifth set in the quarterfinals, eliminating eight-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer 13-11 in the final set.
With Friday’s match tied 13-13, fans howled after a spectator shouted out, “Come on guys, we want to see Rafa!”
Isner was trying to end the longest major title drought — 58 majors — for U.S. men in tennis history. The last American man to win a Grand Slam singles title was Andy Roddick at the 2003 US Open.
The Isner-Anderson match was the first Grand Slam men’s semifinal to go past 6-all in the deciding set since the 2013 French Open, and the first at Wimbledon since 2001.
Besides playing for the Wimbledon title, there was plenty of financial incentive for both players. The winner of the match was guaranteed $1.5 million, depending on the outcome of the final. Isner will go home with $743,322.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.