Isner, Muller to Meet in Semis
By Brittany Stewart, for BB&T Atlanta Open
The top seeds are advancing in Atlanta. No. 3 seed, Gilles Muller, of Luxembourg ended Tommy Paul’s run on Friday, in the early match of the quarterfinals at the BB&T Atlanta Open. The 34-year-old, who is having a career-best season this year, defeated the young Paul, in straight sets 6-3, 6-1 to advance to his fourth “final four” in Atlanta. Paul played through the qualifying draw to earn a bid into the main, and reached his career-best finish at a tour-level event.
After a slow start in the first set, a rain delay stalled play for about half an hour. Once the players returned to court, Muller turned up the heat, broke Paul and did not let off the gas for the rest of the set. Using his forehand and volleys in the second set, Muller had Paul scrambling to find any form of momentum. Dominating the final five games of the set, Muller cruised to Saturday’s play where he will face No. 2 seed, John Isner.
“I am very pleased with how I played after the break,” said a relaxed Muller following the match. “In the beginning it was really tough before the break. Tommy played really well. In the beginning he put a lot of pressure on me. He was returning great and serving big. I guess I was lucky that break came. Because after the break, I had time to regroup a little bit and refocus. I came out there and I was a bit more aggressive. I think that was the key point today.”
Atlanta fans love themselves some John Isner. “Big John” did not disappoint the energized crowd in today’s second quarterfinal match. No. 2 seed Isner, who played collegiate tennis at the University of Georgia, took down Lukas Lacko in straight sets, 7-5, 6-4, reaching tomorrow’s semifinal round.
The No. 2 seed said he was satisfied with his play.
“I felt pretty good on the court. I think had bit of a lull for myself early on in the second set. He was holding serve super easy. I mean love, love, love and next thing 4 all, 30-love and he doubled. I played one good point and he doubled. Next thing you know he is under the gun. So, I played another good point at 30-40, and I closed the match out.”
Isner, who holds three titles in Atlanta and is known for his booming serve, brought his signature game and dropped only six first serve points and served 13 aces in the match. The North Carolina native broke Lacko at 5-5 in the first to claim the lead, and despite Lacko’s consistent groundstrokes, Isner was able to get the break and edge the Slovakian in hopes of earning his second ATP title in two weeks. The big news in this match was Isner actually faced a break point for the first time in two weeks.
“Yea dangit, that was a horrible service performance today (laughing). No I served well. He was for a good portion of the match on me a little bit. He returned well. He takes the return early, and he hit quite a few good returns quick and right at my feet. I stayed calm at that breakpoint; hit a great serve, hit three great serves. Got out of dodge there and then was able to play a great game at 5 all to win the first set.”
Ryan Harrison will advance to his third career semifinal in Atlanta, with a late afternoon win over young American Chris Eubanks. Eubanks, who will begin his senior season at Georgia Tech this fall, fell in straight sets 6-1, 6-2.
“Chris was pretty aggressive early, and he was making a few errors,” explained Harrison. “So I was trying to focus on keeping my first serve percentage up. I know he’s got big weapons, especially with that forehand. I thought if I made first serves it would be difficult for him to control the point with it. I was really emphasizing on trying to make those. Then just you know I usually do a good job of making a lot of balls back and kind of putting that extra ball back in the court.”