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Former Illini Kevin Anderson headed to Wimbledon Final after marathon match

Anderson played in the longest semifinal ever against John Isner.

Day Eleven: The Championships - Wimbledon 2018 Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

After a marathon fifth set, former Illini tennis star Kevin Anderson is headed to arguably the biggest stage in tennis.

Just two days after defeating Roger Federer, Anderson disposed of 9-seed John Isner in five sets on Friday in the Wimbledon semifinals and is now going to Wimbledon Final.

The first three sets all headed to a tiebreak Friday — 7-6 in favor of Anderson before 7-6, 7-6 for Isner. With Anderson’s back again the wall, he won the fourth set 6-4. Then came the fifth set, which made it the longest semifinal in Wimbledon history.

Anderson won the fifth set 26-24.

“I don’t really know what to say right now,” Anderson told the BBC. “Just playing like that, in those conditions, is really tough for both of us. But somebody has to win. John is such a great guy, and I really feel for him. I apologize I’m not more excited right now.”

Day Eleven: The Championships - Wimbledon 2018 Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

With the fifth set tied at 24 games apiece and Anderson up 15-0, Isner returned the serve to Anderson, who fell down and dropped his racket. He got up then and won the point — and the game, taking the 25-24 lead with the break.

Isner was no stranger to playing in long tennis matches: He beat Nicolas Mahut, 70-68, in the fifth set at Wimbledon in 2010, the longest match ever played.

Anderson will face either Novak Djokovic or Nadal (again) in the final.

How’d he get there?

Anderson advanced to the semifinals after taking down 1-seed Roger Federer on Wednesday. Federer had a two-set advantage and had won a record 34-straight sets at Wimbledon, but Anderson took the final three, including an epic 13-11 final set.

The Wimbledon Final will be Anderson’s second career major final.

HOW LONG WAS IT?

SIX HOURS AND 35 MINUTES WHAT!

Anderson’s history

A former All-American with Illinois in the mid-2000s, Anderson defeated Pablo Carreño Busta last year to reach the U.S. Open Singles Final and a date with then-world No. 1 Rafael Nadal, who defeated Anderson.

Anderson — also the tallest finalist in Grand Slam history at 6-foot-8 — became the first Illini to reach the final of Grand Slam, and now he’s reached two of them.

A Johannesburg, South Africa, native, Anderson was the lowest-seeded player in U.S. Open history to reach the singles final. Most world-class tennis players never compete at the collegiate level, but Anderson, 32, did, and ESPN ran a story about that last year.

Anderson became the first Wimbledon semifinalist to since 1996 to even have played tennis collegiately.

Most people are impressed with Anderson’s backhand. He may be a late bloomer, but he has four ATP singles titles and 12 runner-up finishes.