Novak Djokovic edges ahead in Wimbledon clash with Rafael Nadal

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Novak Djokovic is one set away from a place in the Wimbledon final after edging ahead of Rafael Nadal in their belated semi.

Djokovic took a third set tie-break before their match had to be suspended due to the All England Club’s 11pm curfew (2am UAE time), with the score 6-4 3-6 7-6 (11/9).

The heavyweight duo, with five Wimbledon titles and 29 grand slams between them, did not start until 8.05pm (11:05 UAE time) due to the record-breaking match between Kevin Anderson and John Isner which preceded them.

Anderson and Isner walked on to Centre Court at 1pm for a big-serving showdown which many thought might go the distance.

It did, and then some. Six hours and 36 minutes later South African Anderson had beaten an exhausted Isner 7-6 (8/6) 6-7 (5-7) 6-7 (9/11) 6-4 26-24.

It was the longest semi-final in grand slam history, and the second longest match ever at a major championship.

Isner will not need reminding of the longest, having taken 11 hours and five minutes to beat Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon in 2010, and this latest marathon reignited the debate about introducing fifth-set tie-breaks at all grand slams.

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Kevin Anderson overcomes John Isner in marathon five-set thriller to reach Wimbledon final

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Kevin Anderson and John Isner made history in their astonishing Wimbledon semi-final on Friday.

It became the second longest match in the history of the men’s singles at Wimbledon when it passed five hours and 31 minutes. That was the time it took Marin Cilic to beat Sam Querrey in the third round six years ago.

When Isner fired a forehand wide on match point, giving Anderson a 26-24 victory in the deciding set, the match had reached six hours and 36 minutes according to official tournament statistics.

That was still short of the 11 hours and five minutes that Isner took to overcome Nicolas Mahut in their 2010 first-round match.

But it was the longest semi-final in grand slam history.

And when Isner sent down his 53rd and final ace of the match deep into the deciding set it took him to 214 for the tournament, putting him one ahead of the record set by Goran Ivanisevic on his way to the title at the 2001 championships.

Anderson now stands on 172 aces with one match to come.

Isner fell despairingly short in his bid to reach a first grand slam final at the 41st attempt. The record in that category is held by Spaniard David Ferrer, whose breakthrough came at the 2013 French Open final in his 42nd slam.

Anderson reached his first grand slam final at the US Open last year, at the 34th time of trying.

After going 110 service games without being broken during Wimbledon, the seemingly indomitable Isner finally was undone during the third set – but he immediately broke back.

Pete Sampras continues to hold the Wimbledon record for the most consecutive holds, with his sequence of 118 spanning the 2000 and 2001 championships.

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Serena Williams v Angelique Kerber - Wimbledon final stats preview

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Familiar foes: Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber.

The last time Serena Williams took on Angelique Kerber in a Wimbledon final, Serena wasn’t married and hadn’t got pregnant yet, Kerber was a freshly-minted Grand Slam champion from her Australian Open triumph over the American six months earlier, Jay-Z and Beyonce flew in on a helicopter and were in Serena’s box, Ellen DeGeneres was sat next to Billie Jean King in the Royal Box, and Centre Court witnessed one of the best finals in recent memory.

Serena matched Steffi Graf’s Open Era record of 22 Grand Slams that day by defeating a fourth-seeded Kerber 7-5, 6-3, then went on to break it when she lifted the Australian Open trophy in January 2017, while she was pregnant.

Now facing off against Kerber for a third time in a Grand Slam final, Serena is bidding to match Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 majors won.

Kerber, the current world No. 10, is looking to add to her two Grand Slam titles, and prove that she is officially back following a difficult 2017.

Both former world No. 1s have dropped one set each en route to the final and played brilliant semis to reach this point.

Here’s a numbers guide to Saturday’s blockbuster meeting.

1 – Kerber is looking to become the first German woman to win Wimbledon since Graf in 1996.

3 – For the third time in the Open Era, both women’s finalists are not seeded in the top-10.

3 – Kerber is only the third player to face Serena in three or more major finals, alongside Venus Williams and Maria Sharapova. Venus is the only player to defeat Serena twice in a Slam final.

4 – Grand Slam finals Kerber has now reached.

4 – Serena is bidding to become just the fourth mother to win a Grand Slam in the Open Era.

4 – This is just Serena’s fourth tournament back from maternity leave.

4 – Kerber will rise to No. 4 in the world if she wins the title, and No. 7 if she loses the final.

6 – Kerber is one of six German women to reach the Wimbledon final in the Open Era.

7 – Wimbledon titles Serena has won so far in her career.

12 – kilometres run by Kerber through her six matches at Wimbledon, compared to 6.3km run by Serena.

12 – top-10 wins for Kerber this season. By contrast, she recorded just one top-20 victory in a sub-par 2017.

18 – Serena is making her 18th main draw appearance at Wimbledon.

23 – Slams won for Serena from 29 finals played. That’s a 79% winning rate in major finals. It’s the second-best winning percentage in the Open Era.

24 – Serena’s bidding to match the all-time record of 24 Grand Slams won.

28 – Serena will rise from 181 to 28 in the world by virtue of reaching the final, and would hit No. 19 if she wins the title.

30 – This year’s final is the first between two thirty-somethings at Wimbledon since Virginia Wade defeated
Betty Stove in 1977.

36 – At 36 years 291 days, Serena would be the oldest Grand Slam singles champion in the Open Era, overtaking her own record set at 2017 Australian Open, if she defeats Kerber. Serena is the third-oldest Grand Slam finalist.

43 – per cent of Serena’s serves have been unreturned this fortnight, compared to 24% for Kerber.

44 – Serena has struck 44 aces this tournament.

80 – the average ranking of Kerber’s opponents en route to the final.

81 – the average ranking of Serena’s opponents en route to the final.

84.8 – million dollars earned by Serena in career prize money prior to this Wimbledon.

88 – Kerber has made a tournament-leading 88% of her service returns. She has won 47% of her return games.

89.4 – Serena’s winning record on grass is 89.4% (101-12 win-loss), the highest among active players. Kerber’s is 71.8% (61-24), which is the sixth-best rate among active players.

106 – Kerber’s fastest serve struck this fortnight is 106mph. That is Serena’s AVERAGE serve speed this tournament.

325 – match wins for Serena at the Grand Slams, against 43 losses. That’s an 88.3% winning rate at the majors.

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