Isner Battles Past Doubles Partner and Friend

July 15, 2011 07:57 PM
By Michael Rardon/ATC
Day 3 ot the Atlanta Tennis Championships is now complete and four players have secured their spot in the quarterfinals.
Today’s featured match showcased two of the top American players on the ATP World Tour with the third seed John Isner facing-off against friend and doubles partner James Blake.
The two players are incredibly close friends and in a press conference earlier in the week, Isner told reporters that he and Blake actually live about a half a mile away from each other, and he drives his golf cart to Blake’s house to practice multiple times a week. There are no secrets on the court between the two. Both players know their opponents games, and the match would be determined by which player was able to execute the best on that particular day. However, Isner was able to benefit from the packed Stadium Court of Georgia faithful cheering him on and giving him the edge to come through in the end. Today, Isner was able to get the upper hand, but the two will return on court together as doubles partners tomorrow night.
The two played an incredibly close first set with neither player having many opportunities to break. In the tiebreaker, Isner was able to use his serve to take the set winning 10-8 in the tiebreaker.
After securing a break early in the second set and racing out to an early 4-1 lead, Isner seemed to have the match within reach. However, Blake stormed back hitting dazzling passing shots, to break Isner and eventually taking the set in a tiebreak.
Both players served big and used their powerful attacking games to dictate points. The match was decided by which player had the higher consistency and could come up with a big shot on the pressure points. In the end, despite Blake’s best efforts, Isner was able to triumph over his friend and doubles partner 7-6, 6-7, 7-5.
Following the featured singles match was a doubles matchup highlighting Georgia’s Drake Bernstein and Georgia Tech’s Kevin King that proved to be the tournament’s most surprising upset. They faced last year’s doubles champions and top seed in the 2011 Atlanta Tennis Championships, Rajeev Ram and Scott Lipsky. The college duo from rival universities paired together for the first time, playing in front of the two university’s fan bases created a vibrant environment. In an unusual situation, the two sides were both cheering for the same team. King and Bernstein made the most of their wild card, playing almost perfect doubles en route to the biggest upset of the tournament, knocking out the defending champions 7-6(3), 6-3.
 Also in action today was the second seeded, Kevin Anderson from South Africa who played American Michael Russell. After winning his first round match over Atlanta’s Donald Young in straight sets, Russell came out slow in the first set losing 6-1. He regained his form in the second set jumping out to an early 2-0 lead. However, Anderson was able to respond and rally back to win the set 7-5.
After an emotional first round comeback victory against former World No. 2, Atlanta native, Robby Ginepri fell short in his comeback to the ATP World Tour against Gilles Muller. The Luxembourgish player upset seventh seeded American Alex Bogomolov Jr in the first round and continued his sharp play against Ginepri. Though Ginepri was able to rally behind the crowd’s support to comeback and take the second set, Muller proved too much in the third set breaking Ginepri twice and winning the decisive set 6-2.
Former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt won 89 percent of his first serve points to dismiss American qualifier, Phillip Simmonds 6-4, 6-4. Hewitt was down a break early in the first set but won it back quickly and only faced one more break point the entire match.
Hewitt now plays veteran American Rajeev Ram, who scored the biggest upset of the tournament so far with his straight-sets win over the fifth-seeded Bulgarian, Grigor Dimitrov. Ram won 91 percent of his first serves and did not face a break point to take the match 6-4, 6-4. Another upset came at the hands of qualifier Marinko Matosevic, who needed three sets to down the sixth-seeded Russian, Igor Kunitsyn. Seeded players are one-for-four so far with eighth seed Somdev Devvarman scoring the only win yesterday against Ryan Sweeting. However, the top four seeds get in action in the next two days.
The second match on Stadium Court featured young American Ryan Harrison, who defeated another qualifier, Japan’s Yuichi Sugita, 6-1, 7-6(5). Harrison converted 100 percent of his break point chances in the first set, but was zero for 11 in the second and faced a set point on his serve at 4-5. The teenager from Shreveport, Louisiana held serve, however, and played an impressive tiebreaker to take the match. He now faces the fourth-seeded Belgian, Xavier Malisse on Thursday.
Other singles action saw Frenchman Nicolas Mahut winning 7-6(5), 6-2 over the young Lithuanian, Richard Berankis, and Yen-Hsun Lu of Chinese Taipei taking out German Matthias Bachinger.
Doubles action began today, as well, with Americans James Blake and John Isner taking out the No. 2 seed team of doubles specialists, Marcelo Melo and Jamie Murray. Tomorrow’s evening session will feature Blake and Isner again, but on opposite sides of the net as they battle for a spot in the quarterfinals. This will be the first meeting between the two good friends in an ATP World Tour event, and certain to make for exciting tennis action.