Kevin Anderson has been praised for a brilliant act of sportsmanship for John Isner after their six-and-a-half hour marathon semi-final at Wimbledon.
The South African needed six hours and 36 minutes to see off Isner 7-6 (8-6) 6-7 (5-7) 6-7 (9-11) 6-4 26-24 in a truly epic encounter featuring 102 aces, 96 service games but just six breaks.
The match was the second-longest in professional tennis history, behind only Isner’s record-setting 11-hour, five-minute first-round Wimbledon triumph over Frenchman Nicolas Mahut in 2010.
And Anderson could have been forgiven for thinking of himself in the moments following the ridiculous match, but his immediate thoughts were with his beaten opponent.
“Just playing like that in those conditions, it was really tough for both of us,” Anderson said in his post-match interview.
“John’s such a great guy and I really feel for him because if I’d been on the opposite side, I don’t know if I could take that, playing for so long and coming up short.
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“You feel like this is a draw for the two of us, but somebody has to win.
“So I apologise if I’m not more excited right now because the mix of emotions getting through something like that is quite different.”
The South African embraced Isner at the net following the final point, and also stopped to clap his rival off the court, with both men receiving a standing ovation from the crowd.
Anderson then took to social media hours after the match to once again praise Isner.
— Kevin Anderson (@KAndersonATP) July 13, 2018
The classy gestures from Anderson won him a raft of praise from tennis pundits and fans.
That’s THE BEST winners after match interview ever! What class! Well done Kevin and bloody tough one for @JohnIsner …. honestly i just love when players care about how tough it is for their losing opponents. @Wimbledon
— rennae stubbs (@rennaestubbs) July 13, 2018
A whole lot of class from Kevin Anderson post-match.
His physio will need some too.
— Adam Peacock (@adampeacock3) July 13, 2018
Real class from Kevin Anderson in his post-marathon interview. First, second and third thought for his beaten opponent 👏
— Alex Spink (@alexspinkmirror) July 13, 2018
Kevin Anderson says he feels for John Isner. Can't imagine going through *that* and to come up short.
Anderson says Isner has pushed him through his career.
Gracious, professional, class.
— Arash Madani (@ArashMadani) July 13, 2018
"I apologize if I'm not more excited right now." Kevin Anderson's primary reaction now is sympathy for Isner. Classy stuff all around. #Wimbledon
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) July 13, 2018
Wow, brilliant words from Kevin Anderson after that epic game. Surprised he can still breathe never mind find eloquence, sportsmanship and sense when he's just walked off that court
— Andy Kelly (@AndyK_LivNews) July 13, 2018
Twitter was abuzz with jokes that the Anderson-Isner match could well stretch beyond the 70-68 final-set scoreline that Isner won with over Mahut eight years ago.
That “endless match” prompted officials to erect a plaque on Court 18 to commemorate the feats of the two players.
Many would argue Anderson and Isner deserve similar recognition after the great mates warmly embraced at the net before receiving a standing ovation from tennis’s most famous centre-court crowd.
Anderson’s prize for his bittersweet victory over his former US college friend and rival is a date on Sunday with either world No.1 Rafael Nadal or fellow grand slam giant Novak Djokovic.
The ridiculous length of the Anderson-Isner clash left Nadal and Djokovic waiting until 8pm local time before stepping on court for their box office semi-final.