A Big Win For Big John: Isner Overcomes Zverev
German Mischa Zverev won all three of his matches against American John Isner in 2017. But Isner is in the best form of his life, and the 33-year-old’s confidence shone in the BB&T Atlanta Open quarter-finals on Friday.
Isner beat the seventh seed 7-5, 4-6, 6-1 to extend his record in Atlanta to 29-4, evening the pair’s FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry at 3-3.
"He is a tough player and I played well today. I needed to," Isner said. "It was a weird match. The balls were bouncing everywhere, it was tough to control. I was happy to get through in three sets."
As expected, it was a service battle on Stadium Court, with both players needing just a break each to split the first two sets. The match came down to a deciding set for the fourth straight meeting in their series. But this time, the result was different.
Isner, who lost just two first-serve points in the clash (38/40), won all but three of his service points in the third set and broke twice to advance after one hour, 37 minutes. The 13-time ATP World Tour titlist did a good job pressuring the serve-and-volleying German by putting sharp returns back in play. And an immediate break in the third set — Zverev couldn’t handle a half volley — allowed the former University of Georgia student-athlete to loosen up and play some of his best tennis in front of the home crowd.
The American is now two victories from lifting his fifth trophy at the ATP World Tour 250-level tournament, with his four previous triumphs on the Georgia hard courts coming in the past five years. Isner is trying to win multiple titles in a campaign for the sixth time in his career.
The 6’10” right-hander is at No. 9 in the ATP Rankings, after reaching a career-best World No. 8 last week thanks to his run to the Wimbledon semi-finals. He also claimed his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title earlier this season at the Miami Open presented by Itau.
Isner will next face fourth seed Matthew Ebden, who cruised past Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis 6-3, 6-2 in 72 minutes. The Aussie is into his second tour-level semi-final of the season, adding to his trip to the last four at the Libema Open (l. to Chardy).
Ebden began 2017 at No. 695 in the ATP Rankings due to injury, but is at World No. 55 this week after reaching a career-best No. 43 last week. He is pursuing his first ATP World Tour title,
The 30-year-old has not dropped a set this week, saving the only break point he faced to oust Baghdatis. The former World No. 8 had won their only previous FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting six years ago in a final-set tie-break at Sydney.
Isner has won three of his four FedEx ATP Head2Head matches against Ebden, but the Aussie defended his home turf with a four-set victory at this year’s Australian Open. The pair also met last year in the final of the Dell Technologies Hall of Fame Open, Ebden's lone tour-level championship-match appearance, with the American coming out on top in straight sets.
"I am definitely playing better than I was in the beginning of the year. I was struggling a little bit," Isner said. "To his credit, he played much better than me that day in Australia. He had the home crowd on his side. It helps a lot. Now, I’m playing in my backyard and he beat me in his backyard. [We'll] see if I can turn the tide."
Did You Know?
Isner has advanced to at least the semi-finals in each of his nine appearances in Atlanta. The American's record at the tournament in the last four is 7-1, with his only loss coming in 2012 against Andy Roddick.