No. 8 seed Kevin Anderson pulled off a marathon shocker to beat top-seeded Roger Federer 2-6, 6-7, 7-5, 6-4, 13-11 on Wednesday to advance to the Wimbledon semifinals at the All England Club in London.
Federer was serving for the match in the third set, but failed to close it out — giving Anderson, of South Africa, the chance he needed to dethrone the defending champion in a match that lasted nearly four and a half hours.
“I’m not sure what to say right now. I tried my best to keep fighting and was able to scrape through the third and fourth set. By the end I was able to do a great job and I wasn’t thinking too much,” Anderson said. “Against someone like Roger, if you go out there with doubts, like I did in the first set, it’s not going to go well. That was a great performance from my side. I’m very pleased to get through. I wanted to put myself in these positions. I’m very happy about today. I’m in a position to hopefully be here on Sunday. Beating Roger here at Wimbledon is something I’m going to remember. But hopefully I have two more matches to play.”
The third-set loss was Federer’s first of the tournament and broke a streak of 34 straight sets won at Wimbledon, tying the mark the Swiss star set more than a decade ago in 2005-06.
Anderson then broke Federer to go up 4-3 in the fourth set before holding on to force a decider against the eight-time Wimbledon champ.
Federer and Anderson each held serve throughout the final set, sparking a fan to yell out “I need to watch the football!” to laughter after Federer made it 9-8.
England was set to face Croatia in a World Cup semifinal in two hours when the fan yelled out.
The two continued to hold served until 11-11, when Federer suffered his first double-fault of the match and the first break of the final set.
Anderson, who hadn’t been broken since the second set, fell behind 15-0 before serving out for the match by claiming the next four points.
“I just kept on telling myself I need to keep believing. I had to keep telling myself, today was going to be my day,” Anderson said.
It marked just the third time Federer has lost a match in a major after leading by two sets (266-3).
“There’s always a lot of little points here and there that make the difference in the outcome of a match,” Federer said. “I don’t think this one you could pinpoint exactly except for my match points.
“I’ve been there before and I know what kind of energy to bring to the fifth (set). I was able to bring that, so I didn’t feel any mental fatigue.”
Federer also suffered his earliest loss at Wimbledon since losing in the second round in 2013.
“I think I had my chances,” he said. “So it’s disappointing. But no doubt about it, he was consistent, he was solid, he got what he needed when he had to. Credit to him, really, for hanging around that long.
“I wasn’t feeling particularly well off the baseline. I couldn’t really get the rallies going the way that I wanted to, especially the 1-2 punch wasn’t working well today. I don’t know if it had something to do with the breeze, or just a bad day from my side.
“Except for the first set. After that, I never really felt exactly 100 percent. And that has nothing to do with my opponent. It’s just one of those days where you hope to get by somehow, and I almost could have – should have.”
Federer, 36, said he intends to return to Wimbledon in 2019 in search of his ninth men’s title.
“It may take me a while, it may take me half an hour … I have no idea what it’s going to be,” Federer said when asked how long it will take him to get over Wednesday’s defeat. “Of course the goal is to come back here next year.
“What you call unfinished business, I feel like I’ve did some good business in the past here already, so I’m alright. Just disappointment.”
For Anderson, it was his first career victory in five meetings against Federer.
“He’s got a nice big serve, that he can rely heavily on, and I always thought that he returns well off second serves,” Federer said. “There’s nothing really that shocked me because I’ve seen Kevin play many, many times in the past. Even if the matches have been sometimes one-sided … you always know that he can pick it up, and all of a sudden you won’t see breaks anymore for some time.”
Serbia’s Novak Djokovic had a somewhat easier time against No. 24 seed Kei Nishikori of Japan, winning 6-3, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 in a match that lasted two hours, 35 minutes.
It’s the eighth semifinal appearance for Djokovic.
The 12th-seeded Djokovic is continuing his comeback from an elbow injury he suffered a year ago at Wimbledon and sidelined him for six months.
Djokovic improved to 63-10 lifetime in Wimbledon matches in reaching his 32nd Grand Slam semifinal. He has won Wimbledon three times.
Next up for Djokovic will be the winner of a Wednesday quarterfinal between No. 2 Rafael Nadal and No. 5 Juan Martin del Potro.
Ninth-seeded American John Isner takes on Milos Raonic of Canada in the other quarterfinal. The winner will take on Anderson in the semifinals.
–Field Level Media