Yet once he had ended Federer's run of holding serve for 85 consecutive games - a streak dating back to last year's semi-final - Anderson's confidence soared.
By the end of this quarterfinal, a stiff drink seemed more appropriate than a serving of strawberries and cream.
But he found himself in even more unfamiliar territory with an inspired Anderson's relentless, thudding serve eventually overpowering the 20-time grand slam victor. As it went on I just kept telling myself this is going to be my day and I'm ecstatic to get through that.
"I think it was great quality tennis and in the final set there were some awesome points", said 2008 and 2010 champion Nadal.
Eight-time champion Roger Federer has been taken to a fifth set by Kevin Anderson in the Wimbledon quarterfinals. The Swiss lost his serve, putting the match in Anderson's big-serving hands. Djokovic last appeared in the semifinals at Wimbledon in 2015, when he won. The 36-year-old had needed only 26 minutes to take the first set, leaving him horrified as a fifth successive Wimbledon semi-final slipped through his fingers from such a commanding position.
Anderson became the first South African in the Wimbledon semifinals since Kevin Curren in 1983 and just the sixth in history.
But he found himself in even more unfamiliar territory despite racing through the first set in 26 minutes, with an inspired Anderson's relentless, thudding serve eventually overpowering the 20-time grand slam victor. The last time was at the semifinals of the US Open in 2011 against Novak Djokovic.
Eight-time champion Federer has already won more Wimbledon singles titles than any other man, but was aiming to equal Martina Navratilova's all-time record. He extended it to 34 against Anderson, but then the wheels began to come off. A double fault was then compounded by another exhausted forehand into the net by Federer. Raonic hit 31 aces to Isner's 25 but was broken three times, including the last game of the match.
Stormy Daniels Arrested After Performing in Ohio Strip Show
The law, The Community Defense Act, prohibits adult entertainment - defined as nude or topless dancing - between midnight and 6am. Avenatti posted on Twitter on Thursday morning that Daniels will plead not guilty to three misdemeanor charges.
Top seed Federer had a match point in the 10th game of the third set but made a hash of a backhand and almost two hours later he trudged off a beaten man.
The escape energised Anderson and he broke in the next game with a bludgeoning backhand off a weak second serve and then battled back from 0-40 to seal the third with an ace.
Roger Federer admitted he was shell-shocked as the Swiss star struggled to come to terms with his "terrible" Wimbledon quarter-final exit against Kevin Anderson. "I played only once in first four matches on Centre Court". "And I just couldn't get it done today so it's disappointing".
"I think the first warning was unnecessary", said Djokovic, who was sanctioned in the second set for spearing his racquet into the court. "As exciting as it is, I feel like I'm doing a good job of keeping it in perspective".
Federer, Wimbledon's greatest male champion, was greeted warmly Wednesday by Court One ticket holders who never imagined they'd have a chance to see him in person. "That's my problem, really".
Djokovic and Nishikori will play the first match on Centre Court, followed by arguably the pick of the quarter-finals between Nadal and Juan Martin del Potro, meaning Federer must make a rare visit to Court One.
Djokovic defeated 24 seed Kei Nishikori in four sets on Wednesday at Wimbledon, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2, to advance. Do not discount him as we enter the second half of the year.