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How Greensboro’s John Isner kept pounding, but couldn’t advance to final at Wimbledon

Greensboro’s John Isner returns a shot from Kevin Anderson during their Wimbledon semifinal Friday.
Greensboro’s John Isner returns a shot from Kevin Anderson during their Wimbledon semifinal Friday. AP

Greensboro’s John Isner kept pounding Friday, but couldn’t advance to his first Grand Slam final.

Isner, a huge fan of the Carolina Panthers, finally lost to South Africa’s Kevin Anderson in Isner’s first Wimbledon semifinal. The match – which lasted 6 hours and 36 minutes – ended at 7-6, 6-7, 6-7, 6-4, 26-24.

Anderson will play the winner of the second semifinal between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

Anderson scored the key break of the match, going up 40-0. Anderson put the match away when Isner hit a forehand wide.

Wimbledon does not hold tiebreakers to decide fifth sets. It was the longest match, by time, completed in one day in Wimbledon history.

Marathon matches are nothing new for Isner. He beat Nicolas Mahut 70-68 in the fifth set of a Wimbledon match in 2010. That match’s 92 games were the most in tour history.

Isner, one of the men’s tour’s tallest players at 6-foot-10, has built his game on booming serves that regularly exceed 130 mph. That’s a major weapon on any surface, but particularly so on the fast grass courts at Wimbledon. Despite that natural strength on grass, Isner had never previously advanced beyond the third round in nine Wimbledon appearances.

His best prior result in the four Grand Slam tournaments was a quarterfinal at the U.S. Open in 2011. Isner holds the ATP tour record for most aces in a single match at 113.

Isner, 33, is a late bloomer in tennis. He played college tennis at Georgia and did not seriously consider a career in pro tennis until his junior year playing for the Bulldogs.

Isner now lives in Dallas, where his wife owns a jewelry company. However, he’s maintained close ties to the Triad; he frequently plays the late-August tournament in Winston-Salem, the last ATP event each year before the U.S. Open. Isner has been known to get up at odd hours all over the world to watch Panthers games live. He has been chosen in the past to beat the “Keep Pounding” drum at a home game.

Isner entered Wimbledon ranked 10th in the world. He has 13 career tournaments won.