Kevin Anderson rallied from two sets down to shock Roger Federer 2-6, 6-7 (5), 7-5, 6-4, 13-11 and move into the Wimbledon 2018 semi-finals on Wednesday after a four-hour classic on Court No. 1.
After an imperious Federer blew him away in the opening set, Anderson made things tricky for the Swiss legend in the second. He forced a tiebreak but, despite losing the first mini-break, Federer turned things around to go two sets ahead.
Anderson's comeback started here, however, and the South African found his distance with the serve to win back-to-back sets and level. Wimbledon rallied behind both stars, but Anderson roared on to the biggest result of his career after a thrilling contest.
He'll face either Milos Raonic or John Isner in their semi-final on Friday.
Federer came storming out the blocks, breaking Anderson in the first game of the match before holding to love.
His touch and movement were as good as ever, and Anderson could not find a way into the match.
Federer broke again for 5-2 and served out the set to take control of the encounter in just 26 minutes, leaving Anderson reeling.
The world No. 8 would not be blown away, though, and he claimed a surprise break early in the second set to end a ludicrous run from Federer, per Wimbledon:
Anderson looked a lot more confident as the match went on, showing greater variety and troubling Federer more often, especially with his return.
However, not for nothing is Federer a 20-time Grand Slam winner, and he battled back to level from 3-0 down with a break of his own before both played to a tiebreak with an exchange of holds.
Anderson claimed the first mini-break, but Federer then produced a stunning backhand and an inside-out forehand to edge his nose in front, and he then earned three set points at 6-3 ahead.
In uncharacteristic fashion, the Swiss star went long behind his own serve to squander the first two but then took the crucial third by putting Anderson on his back foot with a deep return to clinch the second set. Journalist Stuart Fraser lauded his Wimbledon set streak:
It took Federer 80 minutes to go two sets in front, but Anderson needed only seven minutes more to hit back and rub out his advantage. After averaging 56 per cent accuracy with his first serve in the opening two sets, he proceeded to improve to 70 per cent and 86 per cent in the third and fourth, respectively.
Being able to apply a more aggressive touch gave Anderson the confidence to quell Federer's threat. He saved match point at 5-4 down to recover and break his foe for a crucial 6-5 lead, then rejected three break points to take his first set of the match 7-5.
It wasn't until Anderson's break for 6-5 that either player conceded more than two points on their own serve—evidence of how big a role that aspect had come to play on proceedings.
Federer is usually the adored figure at SW19, but underdog Anderson had a loud chorus running behind him, too, and they were most vocal when he fought back to level at two sets apiece. Writer Ben Rothenberg noted how Federer, one of the all-time greats, looked to be fighting upstream:
The fourth set was Anderson's most clinical of the match, as he surgically dissected the top seed with his serve and gave up only two points across his first four service games. He picked his moment to break for 4-3 and fended off Federer's last-gasp effort to respond in kind and equalise at 2-2.
The baseline-dependent theme continued as both players refused to blink on their own serve—Federer coming closest to breaking at 4-3 up and missing out with what was the only break point seen in the first 16 games of the set.
Writer Christopher Clarey reported how Federer was in unfamiliar waters:
Anderson shows surprising agility for his 6'8" frame and looked as nimble as one must be when facing Federer, holding up his end of the bargain in keeping the world No. 2 at arm's reach but struggling to reclaim the lead.
The war raged on to nine games apiece, where the drain on both players became clear and the ferocity in both stars looked to be fading, as they opted to guard their own serve more intently while reserving energy where possible.
But after 22 games, Federer showed his weariness with a double-fault at 30-30 before netting a forehand to gift Anderson a 12-11 lead, his first of the set. It suddenly became only too clear Federer's upset nightmare could materialise:
But the hysteria was restricted to off the court as Anderson continued to exude a calmness. The South African let a Federer forehand arc out for a 30-15 lead, but his next was even better, as he returned a superb shot down the line for his first two match points.
There was muted applause from the crowd when their most favoured son's exit was confirmed—Federer only able to slap a surging Anderson serve wide and out, with him set follow at the end of an exhausting five-set struggle.
Anderson was en route to his fifth successive straight-sets defeat to Federer but came back from the brink to beat the tennis legend for the first time and boost his prospects of winning a first career major.
Last year's U.S. Open remains his only appearance in a Grand Slam final, but a meeting with either Raonic or Isner in the next round offers up a fine chance to double that number in London come Sunday.