It was finally time for Anderson to serve for the victory, and though he missed a low forehand volley into the net on the first point, with the crowd antsy, he pulled himself together remarkably to win the next four points and the match.
When Isner’s final forehand sailed wide, Anderson could have been excused for doing cartwheels or at the very least multiple fist pumps on the grass. Instead he was remarkably restrained, partly out of fatigue, partly out of respect for Isner.
“Obviously I’m very pleased to get through, but at the same time I definitely feel for John, as well,” Anderson said. “It’s not easy losing matches regardless of the score line in this sort of setting, semifinals at Wimbledon, but especially in those sort of conditions with such a close score line.”
The 2010 ultramarathon on Court 18 bonded Isner and Mahut, who have developed an unexpected friendship. Anderson and Isner already had a long history: They were rivals before they turned professional, when Isner was starring for the University of Georgia and Anderson for the University of Illinois.
Isner has won eight of their 12 matches on the ATP Tour, but they had not faced each other in a Grand Slam tournament in singles until Friday. Their college reunion on Centre Court lasted longer than some college reunions far from Centre Court.
But as memorable as it was for Anderson, he is not eager for others to have a similar experience. Moments after coming off the court, he told the BBC that he believed there should be a fifth-set tiebreaker at Wimbledon, the French Open and the Australian Open. The United States Open is the only one of the four Grand Slam tournaments that uses a tiebreaker in the final set of singles matches.
Anderson and Isner later reiterated their support for a format change.
“I personally don’t see the reason not to include it now at least at all the Slams,” said Anderson, a longtime member of the ATP Player Council. “Obviously John’s match in 2010, when it was ridiculous, I feel like a lot of people were talking about it then. Things didn’t change.