If anything can convince the grand slams to introduce fifth-set tie-breaks, Friday's never-ending semi-final could be the moment, in the view of seven-time major champion Mats Wilander.

There is a certain "wow" factor to a match that turns into a superhuman feat of endurance, forcing the players to keep exhibiting their fine motor skills even as their bodies begin to cramp up and rebel. But in an age of ever shorter attention spans, is there any logic in expecting fans to sit stationary for the best part of a working day?

"People talk about the drama of the set that goes on and on," Wilander told The Telegraph as Kevin Anderson and John Isner moved past the four-and-a-half hour match. "But it leaves one guy exhausted for the next round, it's horrible for the players waiting to come on court, and it has the potential to mess up the schedule for everyone.

"Even for the spectators, I'm not sure how satisfying it is. I was out there on court in the middle of this match, and it was a good atmosphere, but they would have been looking forward to seeing Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal as well, so I'm sure they would have settled for a tie-break in the fifth.

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"The problem is that as you keep going through these matches, your energy runs low. And then you start to focus just on holding your own serve, which means that the chances of a break drop, and the whole thing just lasts longer and longer. Even afterwards, you risk leaving everyone feeling a bit flat and exhausted for the next match."

The US Open is the one major that does use a tie-break in the fifth set when the score reaches six-all. The others keep going, although they all have their own individual policies if you take men's doubles into account.

Wimbledon plays unlimited best-of-five sets there too, which gave rise to the 5hr 2min first-round-match that the British duo Jay Clarke and Cameron Norrie lost to Marcelo Arevalo and Hans Podlipnik-Castillo, by a 6-4, 6-7, 5-7, 6-4, 22-20 margin.

But the Australian Open play unlimited best-of-three sets in men's doubles, while the French Open recently introduced a third-set tie-break to their doubles matches, while allowing singles play to continue uninterrupted.

Wimbledon is the spiritual home of the longest matches. Despite finally concluding at 6hr 35min, the semi-final was still 4hr 30min short of the record here, set by the famous three-day contest between Isner and Nicolas Mahut here in 2010.

Isner and Mahut have their names immortalised in a plaque on the side of Court 18, yet some might ask whether the serve-dominated tennis they produced that summer was actually great sport, or just a statistical curiosity.

On the BBC's commentary, John McEnroe expressed his own support for a fifth-set tie-break. "I believe strongly for our sport to continue to have as many people as possible watching, you can't say playing a tie-break would not have been a magnificent end to this game," said McEnroe. "The fifth set doesn't have to end six-all, it could be 10-all. This will have an effect on their performance on Sunday."

Tie-breaks were devised in the 1960s by Jimmy Van Alen, the founder of the International Tennis Hall of Fame on Rhode Island, and a US champion in the rather more niche sport of real tennis. With a notable absence of modesty, he called his invention the VASSS (Van Alen streamlined scoring system) and he used to sit beside the court at his invitational tournaments and raise a red flag when the score reached six-all.

Until the system came into use at the US Open in 1970, sets on the main tour would go on until one player had a two-game lead, however long that took. Charlie Pasarell and Pancho Gonzales broke the Wimbledon record in 1969 with a 22-24, 1-6, 16-14, 6-3, 11-9 scoreline, listed at 5hr 12min, which was courageously won by the 41-year-old Gonzales.

When the majors finally adopted tie-breaks, they would only enter sudden-death mode at eight-all for the first few years, until the modern approach arrived in 1979. "It doesn't have to be six-all," said Wilander. "It could be 10-all or 12-all. I just think it would help everyone to know there was some sort of finish line they could prepare for."

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