There are so many similarities between South Africa’s Kevin Anderson and American John Isner, that it is perhaps not so strange that they matched each other ball for ball to play the longest semi-final in Wimbledon history … in time as well as player length. The titanic competition between the two late bloomers made history on many levels.
It was also a match between the Italian clothing brands that made their name through tennis sponsorships, Lotto and Fila, and the racket brands Dunlop vs Prince.
The end result was that a South African featured in a Wimbledon final for the first time in 35 years – the last time was Kevin Curran in 1983, although he became a US citizen three months before the historical final that he lost to a 17-year old Boris Becker.
Becker, incidentally, played in Lotto footwear and clothing, as did Martina Navratilova at the time. Bjorn Borg, on the other hand launched Fila.
Lotto Sport, available in South Africa from Bearded Monkey, last year became the official technical apparel partner to Tennis South Africa (TSA) and is also the official clothing sponsor for Africa’s top ranked singles players, Anderson and Lloyd Harris. Anderson wears the Lotto Summer Dragon Tech ll Polo shirt.
He has been playing with Dunlop and currently uses their Srixon Revo Tour racket, developed after Srixon bought Dunlop in September last year.
John Isner signed on as a Fila player in 2016 and has been a face of their heritage collection since then. He wears the brand’s Axilus Energized court shoe with proprietary Energized Rubber cushioning and a TPU midfoot stabilizer. “The Fila shoes have been great — they are comfortable and allow me to transition from side to side, which has been huge,” Isner says.
His racket is the Prince TexTreme Warrior 100, which was ranked #1 all-around frame by Tennis Magazine in 2016.
The two players share many uncanny similarities. The most notable being that they are both over thirty (32 and 33), but only recently became title contenders: Anderson early this year won the New York Open – breaking a run of 11 defeats in major finals, one of them the US Open final, where he lost to Rafael Nadal. In the process he had caused an upset by defeating Andy Murray.
Isner this year won his first major title when he won the Miami ATP Masters 1000 in what he described as “the best win of my career”. It was the first time in eighteen years that an American had won this US event.
Both players broke through the ATP Top 10 rankings this year and are the highest ranked players from their respective countries (Isner is an American). Both are also exceptionally tall: Anderson is 6’8” and Isner 6’10”.
Federer, who beat Anderson in their four previous encounters, lost to him in the quarter-finals. He raised eyebrows when he took to the Wimbledon courts wearing Uniqlo clothing, after the Nike swoosh had featured on his headband for the past 24 years. He did, however, still wear the personalised Federer Nike shoes with the “RF” logo.
His Nike contract came up for renewal in March and he switched to the Japanese clothing brand in a deal speculated to be worth $300-m over the next ten years … guaranteed even if he retires before the contract ends. This is considerably more than his Nike contract, which was rumoured to be worth $7.5-m per year.
At a press conference following his first Wimbledon match in Uniqlo, Federer said: “How many shirts, shorts and socks? Probably would have to have 15 shorts. For the shirts, maybe they have 20 to 30. Socks the same. I have 12 rackets. I have also the same amount of headbands and wristbands.”