Atlanta Tennis Championships (5)
Coverage from ATP 250 Tournament in Atlanta, Georgia, July 18-24, 2011
After his semifinal win, John Isner said he had found his confidence and did not want to let it go, but Isner might have lost his newfound confidence already after losing a second straight Atlanta final to Mardy Fish after being up a set and a break.
Isner had a chance to close out the match in the second set tiebreak when leading 5-1, and then 6-4, with two championship points. Fish said about being match point down, “When you’re in that position, it’s almost over. I played some good points. I don’t think he missed any first serves there. I stuck some returns and put some balls in play.”
Isner also had two break points at 2-3 in the third set to get back on serve, but Fish was able to hold and pulled away with the match to win 3-6, 7-6(6), 6-2. Fish said of the match, “I didn’t necessarily change anything tactically. I took care of my serve games a little bit better once I lost serve in the first game of the second.” Fish also said, “I played a good third set, but I was lucky to win the second set. I felt like I played better and better throughout the match.” This is Fish’s sixth ATP World Tour title.
Saturday’s Semifinal between John Isner and Gilles Muller was reminiscent of their second round match last year with both men very dominant on their own serve. The only thing that separated the two in the first set was Isner’s break of Muller’s serve on a double fault at 5-5. Isner had two break points, again at 5-5 in the second set but was not able to capitalize. The American played a poor tiebreak, which Muller won 7-3. After the match, Isner said he did not panic after losing the second set and that he felt he returned well in the third. He won 80 percent of Muller’s second serve points in the third set to take the match, 7-5, 6-7(3), 6-1, and make his second straight Atlanta final.
Isner also said that the difference between the beginning of the year, when he had a string of losses, and the last few weeks (during which he won a title in Newport) is that he feels like his confidence is back. “It’s not so much something I’ve been working on in practice, it’s something simple like confidence. I’m not the fastest mover but I feel like I’ve been moving well this week and that comes from having a clear head and making the right decisions on the court. I’ve been waiting for this feeling for four or five months now and now that I’ve got it I don’t want to let it go.”
Isner said that he feels more rested for the final this year than last year because last year he was playing in the Doubles Semifinal after playing the Singles Semifinal.
Out of Sync
Yen-Hsun Lu had a great start to his Quarterfinal match against John Isner with a break point in the first game, but after failing to break, Lu had a difficult time staying in the rallies and reading Isner’s serve in their first meeting. At one point the second set where Lu failed again to return one of Isner’s serves, he let out an annoyed sigh and shrugged his shoulders. Isner only served eight aces for the match, but he only lost four points on his first serve on his way to a 6-1, 6-2 victory, in 56 minutes. Isner acknowledged that his opponent did not play his best, but he still felt he played a solid match himself and was happy to win quickly. Isner is on a seven-match winning streak after winning in Newport last week.
Isner said his last two matches this year are very similar to his path to the Final last year, where he had a long three-setter followed by a quick Quarterfinal. Isner will meet Gilles Muller, who defeated Kevin Anderson 7-6(3), 7-6(3), in a semifinal rematch of their second-round encounter last year, where Isner won in a third-set tiebreak.
The Thursday afternoon temperature was over 100 degrees with high humidity and the air felt like a sauna. Ryan Harrison and Xavier Malisse did not play inspired tennis during the midday heat. In the first set, Malisse threw his racquet after he surrendered a break lead in the first set. In an “anything you can do, I can do better” scenario, Harrison yelled and also threw his racquet in frustration, and was given a warning for obscene language when he was down 0-4 in the first set tiebreak. Harrison angrily asked the Chair Umpire, “What does ‘freak’ mean?” Then, he asked the crowd if he shouted a curse word to which they laughed and shouted that he did not. Harrison did not immediately recover from his outburst and lost the first set, 7-6(3). Malisse played one sloppy game to lose serve, and the second set, 6-4. The match was then suspended due to lightning and then rain at 2-1 on serve in the third set.
After a two-and-a-half-hour rain delay, Malisse and Harrison came back on court and traded breaks. The rain delay obviously did not cool their tempers since they started to argue with each other during the changeover at 3-2. After the match, Harrison took the diplomatic approach and said it was all in the heat of the moment and that what happens on the court stays on the court. He would not elaborate on what was said between him and Malisse. Both players are notorious for sometimes showing volatile natures on court, which created a perfect storm here in their first meeting on the ATP World Tour. After their brief argument, Malisse continued to mutter to himself but Harrison managed to calm down and used the crowd support to win, 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-4.
Out with the Old, In with the New
This year, the Atlanta Tennis Championships moved to the Racquet Club of the South, where they have hosted the Australian Open Wildcard playoffs the past two years. Center Court seats over 3,000 spectators, and each section of the stadium has a great view of the court. The collection of sponsor and merchandise booths, called The Mall of Tennis, was strategically located in a huge tent with the food court, to create a nice escape from the heat. Many tennis fans came out to watch the matches on Wednesday with the stands almost completely full for the featured night match between John Isner James Blake.
The Young Americans
Ryan Harrison and Donald Young played very well together in their doubles match. Harrison’s big serve and powerful groundstrokes contrasted well with Young’s variety which included lobs and touch volleys. They started off the match slowly with Harrison dropping his opening service game. However, once they were able to effectively use their contrasting styles, they came back from 1-4 down in the first set to win 6-4.