London • John Isner is ready to be associated with something at Wimbledon other than winning a 70-68 fifth set in the longest match in tennis history.
He figures a championship would do the trick — and he’s two victories away.
Isner, a 33-year-old American playing in his 41st major tournament, reached his first Grand Slam semifinal by beating Milos Raonic 6-7 (5), 7-6 (7), 6-4, 6-3 at the All England Club on Wednesday.
He’d never been past the third round in 10 previous appearances at Wimbledon, a place he called a “house of horrors” earlier in the tournament because of all of his quick exits and five-set losses. Isner is most famous for that record-breaking victory over Nicolas Mahut in the first round eight years ago, which lasted 11 hours, 5 minutes spread out over three days.
“Of course, everyone is going to remember that match in 2010, and rightfully so. I like to think that, since that match, I’ve done a lot of good stuff on the court performance-wise. But for a lot of people, that’s definitely the lasting image of my career,” said the No. 9-seeded Isner. “I think if I can keep going further here, I can maybe squash that.”
If the 6-foot-10 Isner he keeps serving the way he has been over the past 1½ weeks, that’s a real possibility.
He hit 25 aces and saved the only break point he faced against 2016 Wimbledon runner-up Raonic, and has won all 95 service games he’s played across five matches.
“I didn’t have many chances,” said Raonic, who had his right thigh taped by a trainer after feeling something akin to a muscle tear in the first set.
“Wasn’t necessarily anything overly surprising. He’s been quite disciplined when he’s come forward,” the 13th-seeded Raonic said. “I also saw he’s been doing that much better over the last weeks and months.”
It’s the second year in a row a man from the U.S. made a breakthrough at Wimbledon. In 2017, Sam Querrey got to his first major semifinal in his 42nd attempt, the most on record.
For Isner, Wednesday’s match was only his second Grand Slam quarterfinal. The other came back in 2011 at the U.S. Open.
“Certainly the Grand Slam results haven’t been there,” said Isner, whose wife is pregnant with their first child. “But now I’m sort of rectifying that, I think.”
In Friday’s semifinals, he will see a friendly face across the net in No. 8 seed Kevin Anderson, a South African who saved a match point and came all the way back to stun eight-time champion Roger Federer 2-6, 6-7 (5), 7-5, 6-4, 13-11.
“He showed a lot of — what can you say? — gumption, I guess,” Isner said.
Isner leads Anderson 8-3 in head-to-head matchups on tour, but their rivalry goes back further than that. They faced each other as college players when Isner was at Georgia, and Anderson at Illinois.
“We’ve known each other forever,” Isner said.