Match report

James Blake ©
2nd round
7/21/11 1 2 3 Tot
us  James Blake 6 7 5 1
us  John Isner 7 6 7 2
John Isner ©
  • Isner outlasts Blake in second-round Atlanta thriller

    7/21/11 5:57 AM | Ricky Dimon
    John Isner survives a second-round showdown in Atlanta against doubles partner James Blake on Wednesday. Isner prevails in almost three hours to set up a quarterfinal meeting with Yen-Hsun Lu.

    The crowd got exactly what it paid to see on Wednesday night in Atlanta--a high-quality thriller between two of the tournament's highest-profile players.

    John Isner outlasted good friend and doubles partner James Blake 7-6(8), 6-7(3), 7-5 in the second round of Atlanta Tennis Championships. Isner blasted 30 aces and fought off all five of the break points he faced in a tense third set to prevail after two hours and 50 minutes of spirited play.

    This one was neck-and-neck right from the start. Although Isner seemed to be in complete control during the first set, he could not pull away from Blake. The 6'9'' American got looks at 0-30 in return games at 0-0 and 3-3, but Blake won four straight points on both occasions to hold and stay on serve. Isner finally earned a break chance at 5-5, 30-40 only to dump a sitting forehand in the net. The ensuing tiebreaker required 18 points to be decided. Isner gave back an early mini-break, but his second return point came at 8-8 and he finished off the set with a booming first serve.

    With momentum in hand, the world No. 35 raced to a commanding 4-1 lead in the second frame of play. Blake, however, was not about to go away without a fight in front of fans who clearly wanted to see a third set. The 31-year-old American held for 2-4 to stay within striking distance but needed a rare scalp of his opponent's serve in order to have a chance. Blake, who had won only six return points in the entire first set, did just that and struck suddenly for his first break of the day to get back on serve at 3-4.

    "He played a good game," Isner explained afterward. "But I might have got a little sloppy."

    Whatever the case, Blake made the most of his second life whereas Isner's game started to go downhill. Another tiebreaker had to decide set two and this time it was Blake who had a spring in his step, eager to prolong the match. The world No. 91 seized a mini-break for a 3-2 advantage and from there he rolled through the 'breaker seven points to three.

    Isner had begun cramping late in the second, and he later noted that he was surprised he did not cramp up again during the decisive third set. Clearly fatigued, though, Atlanta's No. 3 seed struggled to keep up with an in-form Blake. Isner stayed afloat simply by coming up with massive serves on the big points. He survived multiple-deuce games at both 2-3 and 3-4, saving a total of five break points in that stretch all thanks to unreturnable serves.

    Unable to put the favorite away, Blake finally tightened up at 5-5. The former world No. 4 led 40-15, but a double-fault provided an ever-so-slight opening that proved to be just what Isner needed. Isner promptly delivered three straight forehand winners, what he later called his three best points of the entire match. That led his second break of the day, and Isner finished off the nail-biter with a routine hold.

    "I was dying," said Isner, who said he went through nine shirts during the match and joked that he lost 25 pounds. "It was a huge fight. I thought the quality of tennis was very high. He hit winners tonight that were out of this world. I was just a little luckier than he was."

    Blake, who almost duplicated the feat of storming back from a set and a break down against Ernests Gulbis in round one, wrapped up his effort with seven aces and six double-faults while winning 84 percent of his first-serve points. Isner double-faulted seven times to go along with his 30 aces, but he saved seven of eight break points.

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"out of this world" was accurate to describe some of Blake's shot-making tonight. Almost looked like 2005.

He'd have pulled it out had it not been for ridic serving by Isner on the break points. And Isner's forehands at 5-5 in the third set were hard to believe.

RickyDimon , 7/21/11 8:16 AM

I'm actually surprised Blake made it that competitive...though Isner's return game isn't really anything to write home about....

cherylmurray , 7/21/11 3:01 PM

Is Isner just destined to be the marathon guy? It seems every time he's brought up he just finished a 3+ hour match.

ts38 , 7/21/11 5:35 PM

Surely to have "Isner" and "thriller" in the same sentence is a bit of an oxymoron? ..;)

deuce , 7/21/11 5:50 PM

lol, deuce.

cherylmurray , 7/21/11 5:53 PM

not surprised, I picked Blake to take it to three. Aside from one bad service game in the 2nd, the reason it was so close was cause of Blake. Best I have seen him play in several years (which is not saying a lot, of course!!! But still).

RickyDimon , 7/21/11 6:03 PM

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