After Kevin Anderson and John Isner battled it out for over six hours, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal almost outdid them.
Djokovic denied Nadal in a titanic five-set tussle stretching over two days to reach his fifth Wimbledon final – and first grand slam title decider in almost two years.
The Serbian superstar resisted a ferocious fightback Nadal to outlast the world No.1 6-4 3-6 7-6 (9-11) 3-6 10-8 in the second-longest semi-final in the championships’ 150-year history.
The start of the 52nd instalment of the two great rivals was delayed by the longest semi-final ever played at The All England Club on Friday – Anderson’s epic six-hour, 36-minute defeat of Isner – and forced to resume on Saturday before the women’s final.
Fans, including the Duchess of Cambridge and Duchess of Sussex in the front row of the Royal Box, were treated to breathtaking deciding set as Djokovic finally prevailed after five hours and 15 minutes.
As it was for the first three sets before the 11pm (local time) council curfew forced the suspension on Friday night, the Centre Court roof was closed and, again, the quality on display was spectacular.
Nadal grabbed the fourth set to set up a monumental 91-minute decider that Djokovic clinched when Nadal fired a forehand wide.
“I’m just overwhelmed. This kind of match you live for, you work for,” Djokovic said after qualifying for his 18th grand slam final.
“It really could have gone either way. It was very clear that very few things separated the two players and, until the last shot, I didn’t know if I was going to win.
“I believed it but I knew that he was very, very close and he had some chances.”
Nadal will regret his missed opportunity the night before, when he was in the ascendancy but passed up two set points. But while Anderson and Isner’s titanic tussle was more an exercise in totting up aces, this was a cast-iron classic.
Chasing a 13th career major, but first since completing the non-calendar-year grand slam sweep at the 2016 French Open, Djokovic will carry a 5-1 winning record over Anderson into the championship showdown.
Two of those victories came at The All England Club, but Anderson was close last time with Djokovic having to battle back from two sets down in a thrilling fourth-round shootout in 2015.
The eighth-ranked Anderson will be contesting his second grand slam final in 10 months after falling to Nadal in last year’s US Open decider.