American John Isner reached his first Grand Slam semi-final as he beat Canadian Milos Raonic 6-7(5) 7-6(7) 6-4 6-3 in a clash of the giants at Wimbledon on Wednesday.
The 33-year-old saved a set point in the second set tiebreak to avoid going two sets down and then took control of the match to continue his dream run at the All England Club after years of unrewarded toil on the grasscourts.
Ninth seed Isner has taken 41 Grand Slams to reach his first semi-final — one less than compatriot Sam Querrey who reached the milestone a year ago at Wimbledon.
He had never made it beyond the third round at Wimbledon in nine previous attempts but has been in sparkling form this time and will harbour genuine hopes of going at least a stage further with South African Kevin Anderson, rather than eight-time champion Roger Federer, waiting in the semis.
“Pure elation right now. Very happy to be in this position right now in the semi-finals,” Isner, who banged down 25 aces to the 31 of Raonic, told reporters.
“With how I’m feeling physically and mentally, I’m in a very good spot. I think I can keep doing damage here.”
“This is amazing. It’s by far the best Grand Slam I’ve ever played in my career, and I’ve been playing for 11 years. I’m super happy. To do it here at Wimbledon makes it even a little bit more special.”
Once he levelled the match against 2016 runner-up Raonic, ninth seed Isner began to dominate and he gained the first service break of the match at 2-2 in the third set when he crunched a deep return that the Canadian could not handle.
Isner wobbled when serving at 5-4, a double-fault giving Raonic a rare break point, but he salvaged the situation with a booming ace before moving a set from victory.
In a slightly surreal atmosphere, with hundreds of empty seats on Court One due to England’s soccer World Cup semi-final with Croatia having kicked off, Isner dominated the fourth.
He moved 5-3 ahead with another break and spared himself any nerves as he broke Raonic again to seal victory.
Eighth seed Anderson now awaits with a first Wimbledon final the reward for whoever triumphs.
“It’s a huge match, for sure. Kevin has been there before. He made the U.S. Open final last year. I’m trying to get to where he’s already been. He wants to get back there, wants another crack at a championship. It’s going to be a fun match.”