Ron Cioffi/BB&T Atlanta Open
Woof! Woof! Woof!
With the definitely partisan Georgia crowd on his side yelling "Go Bulldog," John Isner put his third-set disappointments behind him and slammed the door on Kevin Anderson. In his third BB&T Atlanta Open final, Isner rode the wave of barking University of Georgia fans and won 6-7(3), 7-6(2), 7-6(2).
The former UGA Bulldog had Manny Diaz, longtime UGA men’s tennis coach, in the stands and providing support. He certainly echoed the local Atlanta crowd in standing solidly behind the man who was born in North Carolina and lives in Florida. But, on his way through the Peach state, he became the greatest men’s player to hail from the Athens campus.
With dogged play, Isner stood his ground, saving all 11 break points that Anderson threw at him. In the tenth game of the first set, Anderson couldn’t convert two set points. At 1-1 in the second set, Isner saved two more break points. Additionally, in his opening game of the final set, he stared down four break points, finally converting on the third deuce.
Plus, Isner saved two match points.
In the final tiebreak, Isner took control early, and raced to a 6-1 lead on two mini-breaks. A backhand unforced error by Anderson finished the longest best-of-three final on the ATP World Tour this year, at 2:54.
The match reached new heights and made history; the two players -- 6’10" Isner and the 6’8" Anderson.-- combined for the tallest size of two singles finalists in ATP history.
It was the "smaller" of the two who controlled the match. Anderson kept up a steady ground game to counteract Isner’s power. Overall, Anderson was in control, building up the drama and pressure on his opponent. Clearly, the local crowd was on Isner’s side as he repeatedly dug himself out of holes. The last two tiebreaks swung the overall points total to Isner (125-123) but Anderson clearly had the better play leading up to the tiebreaks.
Anderson said, "There was one point in the tiebreak that I felt a little heavy. It was one of those types of matches. I was happy with the way I played. It just it came down to a few points."
Isner leads the tour with a substantial 26-7 tiebreak record this year. In the third set, Inser got the mini-break on the first point and then continued to pressure Anderson to hit clutch shots, which he didn’t do.
"I’ve got to get into more return games," Anderson added. "Not too many guys serve the way John did today." Isner banged in 24 aces and one of his second services made the sizable Anderson jump to get to a high bouncer.
Isner looked at the breadth of his week in Atlanta. "This is a tournament I could have been out in my first match (against Christian Harrison). I lived on the edge all week and seemed to come through each and every time.
"I’ve been on the wrong edge of a final that was that close before … having match points, having a lot of chances. It feels good to be on other end of that. I never wavered. I believed, even at love-40, that I could hold on. It seems I came through for the good each of every time."
Isner’s ranking will improve with his seventh trophy. He will surely jump from No. 22 in the world to a spot above Anderson, who is currently No. 21. Additionally, the American leads the Emirates Airline US Open Series race with 70 points. Anderson earned 45 points.
Other interesting facts:
It was the first ATP World Tour final with three tiebreaks and no breaks of serve since 2012 Chennai : Milos Raonic d. Janko Tipsarevic 6-7, 7-6, 7-6.
· Of Isner’s seven career ATP World Tour titles, three have come after saving match point and winning in a third set tiebreak: 2010 Auckland, 2012 Winston-Salem, 2013 Atlanta
· Isner hit 24 aces and Anderson 21. This was the first ATP World Tour final in which both players hit 20-more aces since 2011 Memphis (Roddick, 20 d. Raonic, 32)
· Isner is 8-0 in decisive set tiebreaks matches in 2012-13 (29-14 in his career).