John Isner continued to own the BB&T Atlanta Open, claiming his 5th title with a 5-7 6-3 6-4 victory against countryman and friend Ryan Harrison on a sweltering Atlanta afternoon.
Isner, who began the final as a favorite, needed 2 hours to secure victory as he dropped the first set against an opponent who didn’t have any fear when facing down a big server. Both players served well when three out of four points on serve as the first set saw 10 consecutive service holds to 5-5 without a break point. A long 11th game saw Harrison break on his lone chance, and then Harrison held at love to go up a set.
In set 2 Isner was under significant pressure, as Harrison generated three break point chances at 1-1 to go up a break, and then one more at 2-2. However Harrison faltered in the 6th game of the set and then Isner held on to force a third set.
Isner took immediate advantage in the third set, breaking in the opening game, and Harrison was almost broken once more. As the match went on Harrison wore down as Isner fired 21 aces (8 in the third set) and served out the championship game at love. Even without tiebreaks it was a relatively high quality match as Isner won his second ATP title of the season while Harrison was defeated in his first final of the season.
Nick Monroe and J.P. Smith defeated Harrison and Rajeev Ram in the doubles final, as it all came down a third set super tiebreak that Monroe/Smith won 10-8 for a 3-6 7-6 10-8 win off the back of two straight tiebreak wins.
After reaching the semis at Wimbledon, Isner hopes to continue his momentum in the rest of the hard court summer tournaments in North America, and also at the US Open, the biggest stage for any American player, and especially the current American #1. Harrison hasn’t been in great form lately but perhaps a second consecutive Atlanta final will help push him forward on the North American hard courts.
John Isner defeated a hobbled Marcos Baghdatis in routine fashion 6-3 6-3 to capture his third straight BB&T Atlanta Open title. The ATP 250 trophy is his first of 2015 and the 10th total ATP title of his career, all of those trophies coming in 250 events.
Baghdatis showed signs of a leg injury early, as he was shaking his leg and trying to get it flexed, he fought hard and came out with the will to fight, but he was under pressure on serve in his first service game, holding to deuce for 1-1. Isner pumped out a routine hold, and then broke at 15 for a 3-1 lead. From there he wouldn’t look back as he raced through service holds and took the opening frame 6-3 in less than a half hour.
During the set change Baghdatis took an off court medical timeout, but his leg never sorted itself out and the trainer couldn’t really do much for him. Credit to him for walking out for the second set and still playing his best, but it was clear Isner had the match under his thumb. The American didn’t face a break point all match, while Baghdatis had to fight out a hold for 2-1, got broken at 30 to go 3-2 down, and then was broken again in the final game of the match for a 6-3 6-3 defeat.
There was question whether Baghdatis would retire midway through the second but he continued to play on, unable to move well and slicing most of his returns back. Isner thumped aces and forehand winners, and was clearly pleased to have a routine final as he successfully defended his ranking points. Isner won 27/28 first serve points, and was 9/11 on second serve points while Baghdatis was broken three times in his injury scarred loss. All in all it was an excellent bounce back tournament for Big John as he began the Emirates Airlines US Open Series with a title, erasing the memory of his bad round 1 defeat in Newport. His serve was on point all week and he still has a chance to get back into the top 15 by the end of the season.
As for Baghdatis, he played excellent this week and cemented himself as back in the top 50, it was his first final in years, and when fit and focused, he’s one of the best aggressive ball strikers in the game. Hopefully his injury was only a short term problem and nothing serious, given he’s been bothered by injuries throughout his career. Marcos is likely in doubt for DC, but he could be a dark horse throughout the rest of the US Open Series. He was great with fans, and really showed passion this week.
The doubles final between the Bryan Brothers and Fleming/Muller was more competitive, and in fact lasted as long as the singles final did, but the world #1 team rose to the occasion and captured their first Atlanta trophy in the clutch. Fleming/Muller went 5-2 up and took the first set 6-4, but the second set was all on serve, and the Bryans took the tiebreak 7-2. The final third set super tiebreak was also dominated by the brothers as Fleming/Muller strugled to hold serve and the Bryans won 4-6 7-6(2) 10-4. The final two tiebreaks won by the American legends by a combined score of 17-6. The Bryans have now won four titles on the season, three of which have come on American soil.
Our appreciation once again to the BB&T Atlanta Open and their entire team for a fantastic tournament at Atlantic Station, and for providing us with media credential access. The 250 stop in Atlanta is one of the best tournaments in North America, and one of the best ATP tournaments of that level in a variety of ways, Tennis Atlantic looks forward to covering the tournament next year as well! The BB&T Atlanta Open lived up to their motto of “World Class Field, World Class Fun” in 2015.
It was a great day of tennis on semifinal Saturday in Atlanta as John Isner setup what promises to be a great final against Marcos Baghdatis. Both players had to battle for wins, and look to be in excellent form going into the championship singles match.
Isner took part in the first semifinal against Denis Kudla, a match he won 4-6 6-2 7-5. Kudla’s career best form was on display in the early going as Isner was under pressure on his serve in both the 2-2 game and the 3-3 game. Isner fended off a break point for 3-2, but Kudla broke him on his third break point chance for a 4-3 lead in the opening set. The American baseliner was hitting the ball with aggressive flat power off of both wings and coming forward, making Isner stumble about on his footwork, and taking the match to Isner, which was the key.
Kudla would serve out the set after fending off a break point, but getting that first break point chance seemed to energize Isner, who began to mix up his style a bit and bother Kudla on serve more. Kudla was hampered by a tense, and at times weak serve, and the second set was all Isner. The big man was bombing aces, and scored a double break for a 6-2 second set, the final break game also giving Isner the benefit of serving first in the third set, meaning the pressure was always going to be on Kudla every time he stepped up to the service line.
In the third both players battled admirably, but Kudla simply failed to generate chances on the Isner serve like he did in the first set, holds were easily had, but Kudla had to fend off a break point in a long game at 3-4, as Isner was looking for a chance to serve out the match. It would eventually go to 6-5 Isner, and then Kudla simply got tight, as he had to save a break point/match point, and then promptly double faulted to setup Isner with another. This time Kudla’s return was sent long and that was the match as Isner continues to dominate the BB&T Atlanta Open. Stats wise, Isner fired 25 aces, Kudla had 4 double faults. and Isner won a remarkable 89% of his first serve points, that proving to be the difference.
Kudla fought hard and deserves to be commended for his amazing recent run of form, and another career best result in reaching this ATP semifinal as a qualifier. He may not be quite up to the level of a top 20 player like Isner yet, but this match and his results in Atlanta show he’s on the rise and he can get to that level. It will be interesting to see what Kudla brings to the table for the rest of the Emirates Airlines US Open Series, which next goes to his home tournament in Washington D.C., the Citi Open.
In the second singles semifinal veterans Marcos Baghdatis and Gilles Muller were both seeking to reach their first ATP final in over three years, and Muller was bidding to reach his second BB&T Atlanta Open final, however Baghdatis prevailed in a close match 6-7(4) 6-3 7-6(4).
Muller served first against Baghdatis, and as expected was firing aces or unreturnable serves right off the bat. He didn’t return as well as he had in his previous wins, but Baghdatis was a step above his other opponents in terms of level as they battled to 5-4 Muller. In the 5-4 game Muller had a 0-30 lead, but he didn’t advance any further than that as Baghdatis fended him off and from there the opening set went to a tiebreak.
Powered by 9 of his 15 aces coming in the first set, a couple of good return points Muller took that tiebreak 7-4, as he was 5-2 and 6-4 up in the breaker, while Baghdatis never had a lead.
In the second set, Muller’s serve began to dip in quality a bit, and the ballstriker Baghdatis pounced with talented shotmaking. Marcos broke for 2-0, then saved a break point in the next game for a 3-0 lead. He would have another break point chance at 4-1, but Muller scratched through the game. The Cypriot didn’t face any sort of pressure on his own serve after the third game of the set and served the match into a third set with relative ease 6-3.
The third set surprisingly featured breaks for both players as Baghdatis took a 2-1 and 4-2 lead, and had a break point for a 5-2 lead. However Muller continued to hang on though his serve was clearly letting him down. The Luxembourger broke back for 4-4 with surprising efficiency and then held for a 5-4 lead, meaning the pressure would be on Baghdatis the rest of the way. Marcos rose up and broke in a very long 5-5 game, but then failed to serve the match out, as he got tight under pressure, something he also did in the quarterfinals against Pospisil, as his level has dropped in tense moments this week.
In that breaker Baghdatis won the first point, and then held serve from there to take it 7-4.The Cypriot also earned the win in the stats column, as Muller won just 50% of his second serve points (compared to 66% for Baghdatis). It was a close match, but Baghdatis had a more well rounded game, and was better able to deal with adversity compared to Muller’s more one dimensional style. On key points Muller’s shot selection was also lacking.
It’s been a fantastic week for a passionate and motivated Baghdatis, he seems fitter than he’s been in years, and he’s shown glimpses of the form that once made him a Grand Slam finalist nearly a decade ago. Regardless of the outcome of the final, he has a chance to make noise the rest of the hard court summer, and also in the US Open as he remains one of the games best offensive baseliners, and a true talented shotmaker with good groundstrokes and a solid serve.
Previewing the Singles Final
Isner will be a heavy favorite in the 2015 singles final, not only has he won the last two BB&T Atlanta Open’s, his serve has been on point this week and he has yet to lose a tiebreak (3-0). On top of that he’s 5-0 in his career against Baghdatis and all of those wins came on outdoor hard courts, the most memorable being their 2011 US Open Round 1 meeting that saw Isner win two tiebreaks and advance in four sets. Their last meeting came in 2013 in the DC quarterfinals and Isner won that one in three sets, though he lost a tiebreak.
The match against Kudla was Isner’s toughest of the week however, and Kudla is in some ways a poor man’s Baghdatis, as they both have powerful ground strokes and try to play aggressively, while Baghdatis has a better serve. Marcos has had to win four singles matches this week as he didn’t get a bye, so fatigue could play a factor though he seems fit, as the match will be played in hot afternoon conditions. The key factor to me is the fact Baghdatis has gotten tight when facing the pressure of closing out opponents, and his struggles to do that against Pospisil and Muller should dent his chances. However, he did beat the big serving Groth, and Muller in three sets, so he’s already beaten two of the best servers on the ATP tour in the same week, on the same court, and Isner is right up there with them.
We could be looking at three sets, but with the h2h and his current form all helping him out, it’s hard to see Isner not winning a third Atlanta title.
Muller finds success in doubles, Bryans Dominate Again
Gilles Muller needed the literal definition of suitable rest after his grueling three set semifinal in singles, and surprisingly he did reach one final this week, that coming in doubles as he and his partner Colin Fleming beat Eric Butorac/Artem Sitak 6-3 5-7 10-3. Muller/Fleming got off to a strong start in the first set going up 3-0, and though there were a lot of break point chances on all sides in the first set, they got the key break and served out the first set.
In the second Muller/Fleming faced four break point/set points serving 4-5 down after routine holds in the second, and though they survived that, Butorac/Sitak break for 7-5 after not facing a break point chance in the second set. The super tiebreak was then dominated by Muller/Fleming as they went from 1-1 to 6-1 and from 6-2 to 9-2 rather quickly. This team featuring a doubles specialist and a big server will prove to be an interesting foil in the final to the Bryan Brothers.
The aforementioned world #1 team ended the surprising run of Chris Eubanks/Donald Young 6-2 6-4 in a dominant showing that only lasted 49 minutes. The Bryan’s have simply looked to be a cut above this tournament and haven’t really felt the heat this week, as a result, they should be strong favorites to add yet another trophy to their storage locker sized career haul on Sunday, as they vie for their first BB&T Atlanta Open final.