In a battle of the big-servers, eighth seed Kevin Anderson takes on ninth seed John Isner with both men looking to reach their first Wimbledon final. Anderson does have experience of making it to the title match at a Major, having reached the US Open final last September (lost to Nadal). Isner, however, had never previously been beyond the quarterfinals of a Slam, a stage he had only reached once before, in 2011 also in New York. But who will earn themselves a shot at glory?
Isner and Anderson have met 11 times, and it is the American who holds the advantage in their head-to-head, having won eight matches to Anderson’s three. Of those 11 matches, all bar one has been played on a hard court, with the sole exception coming on the grass at Queen’s in 2008 where Isner won 7-6 6-4. They have not, however, met since 2015 in Indian Wells where Isner won in straight sets 7-6 6-2.
Path to the quarterfinals
Anderson began his Wimbledon with a 6-3 6-4 6-4 victory over qualifier Norbert Gombos before beating Andreas Seppi 6-3 6-7 6-3 6-4. He then conquered Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-3 7-5 7-5 and Gael Monfils 7-6 7-6 5-7 7-6 to reach his first Wimbledon quarterfinal. There he faced Roger Federer. He lost the first two sets, and when Federer forced a match point up 5-4 in the third, the outlook seemed bleak. But Anderson roared back, outlasting the great Swiss to win 2-6 6-7 7-5 6-4 13-11.
Isner defeated Yannick Maden 6-2 7-6 7-5 to open his tenth Wimbledon. He then battled past Ruben Bemelmans 6-1 6-4 6-7 6-7 7-5 in an ill-tempered affair. That was followed by a more straight forward 6-3 6-3 6-4 victory over Radu Albot in the third round. Isner then defeated Greek young gun Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4 7-6 7-6 to reach the Wimbledon quarterfinals for the first time. There he rallied from a set down to oust 2016 finalist Milos Raonic 6-7 7-6 6-4 6-3.
How do they match up?
Just as in both men’s previous matches, this will be a contest dominated by serving. With Anderson standing 6’8” and Isner two inches taller still, both men are capable of hammering down aces at will and have done so throughout the Championships. Isner is currently leading the ace race with 160, but Anderson is not too far behind in third with 124 to his name. But where Isner is yet to be broken this tournament, Anderson has dropped serve nine times.
That is perhaps a surprise considering Anderson is the more complete player. Though Isner does have a bigger serve than the South African, he has less options should it come back. His forehand is a weapon, but his movement is a real weakness as is his backhand. Anderson may not be the most mobile, but he does cover the court better than Isner and his backhand is generally rock solid. But Anderson has broken serve more than Isner, with 18 returning games won to the American’s 15.
Isner has a fine record against big servers and looks to be playing with confidence after winning the biggest title of his career in Miami. But so too is Anderson, having reached a Slam final last year and now beaten Federer on grass from two sets and a match point down. And whilst Isner is the bigger server, Anderson is better off the ground and importantly, on return. That should prove the difference in a tight match. Expect Anderson to reach a second Slam final in five sets.