John Isner Reaches 9th Straight ATP Atlanta Semifinal
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
John Isner reached his 9th straight BB&T Atlanta Open semifinal, extending his streak of having never lost before the semifinals since the Atlanta Open began in 2010. Isner got past Mischa Zverev in the quarterfinals 7-5 4-6 6-1 in an hour and a half. The American #1 fired 21 aces and won all but two of his first serve points against the German veteran.
The opening set was a relatively swift one, Isner made a late push to break in the final game of the set, generating three break point chances and finally securing the set. Set 2 saw Zverev take advantage of his one and only opening in the match as he broke Isner for a 3-2 lead and was rock solid on serve to force a third set. Things went off the rails for Zverev though from there, Isner broke open a 5-0 lead and closed out the third set losing just three points on serve.
Isner is now slated to face Australia’s Matt Ebden in the semifinals. In the one routine match of the day Ebden took advantage of a discombobulated Marcos Baghdatis to ease into the semis 6-3 6-2. Baghdatis played a poor match similar to the ones that has characterized his late career decline. He won just 38% of his second serve points and generated just one break point chance that Ebden saved in the contest. Ebden broke for 2-0, and snuffed out a break point chance in the final game of the first set to take it 6-3. Baghdatis again surrendered an immediate break in the second set and under constant pressure from the clean hitting Ebden he was broken once more to allow Ebden an easy win.
Ryan Harrison and Cam Norrie face off in the other semifinal. Norrie upset Nick Kyrgios as Kyrgios retired to a chorus of boos down 7-5 3-0 in nearly an hour. Kyrgios struggled throughout the match and played surprisingly passively throughout the contest, eventually giving up as he loomed doomed to defeat against the fast rising Norrie. Norrie was steady on serving erasing the three break point chances he faced as things slipped away from Kyrgios after he failed to break in a pair of games where he had an opportunity in the opening set. After being broken twice in the match (first at 5-6 and second at 0-1) he shook hands with the umpire and walked off the court.
Ryan Harrison didn’t have it so easy against next gen star Hyeon Chung. Harrison dropped the first set 7-6 and had to comeback for a 6-7 6-2 7-6 victory in a match that was decided by the slightest of margins. Harrison kept hope alive of defending his finalist points from last year after a two and a half hour war where his superior serve made all the difference. Harrison wasn’t broken in the match, saving 5 chances that Chung generated, and he won 83% of his first sere points.Embed from Getty Images
Despite failing to break Harrison in the opening set Chung played a better tiebreak to get off to the best start. However Harrison instantly got himself back into the contest breaking Chung in the first game of set 2 and then taking another break to finish things 6-2. In the third set it looked like Chung would take the advantage as he had three break points in the 6th game, but Harrison won that long game and then almost broke Chung in the next one. Both players would serve their way into a tiebreak where minibreaks were the order of the day. Harrison took a 6-4 lead in the breaker and finally put things away 7-5 as Chung gave up the deciding point on his serve.
In doubles Arneodo/Chardy and Harrison/Ram advanced in straight sets as Bambridge/O’Mara and Bryan/Tiafoe went down in defeat.
Saturday features Isner vs. Ebden first up with Harrison vs. Norrie to follow. The doubles semifinals are Arneodo/Chardy vs Monroe/Smith and Raja/Skupski taking on Harrison/Ram. Isner and Harrison met in the final last year, while Ebden and Norrie are seeking the first ATP titles of their career. Ebden has one previous final on his resume, while Norrie has none.