Isner Wins Big Men Battle, Will Face Kyrgios In Atlanta Final
31 year old will play in his sixth Atlanta final
John Isner will play for his fourth BB&T Atlanta Open title and his first crown of the season on Sunday. The top seed extended his Atlanta winning streak to 15 by prevailing 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-2 against his upset-minded countryman, 18 year old Reilly Opelka, who was playing in his first ATP World Tour semi-final.
The 31 year old Isner has now reached the Atlanta final six times in seven tournament appearances.
“I wish we could play every week in Atlanta,” Isner told ESPN's Jason Goodall on court after the match. “I think I'd be No. 1 in the world.”
He will face another ATP World Tour player on the rise in Sunday's final: Aussie Nick Kyrgios, who won the #NextGen semi-final earlier on Saturday, overcoming Japan's Yoshihito Nishioka 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.
Isner and Kyrgios, the second seed, have played two times in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series. Isner has taken both contests, including a straight-sets win on the Montreal hard courts last season and a three-set victory on the clay in Madrid last year. Kyrgios will be playing in his first Atlanta final and third overall; Isner will be playing in his 21st career final.
“He's a shotmaker. He's proven he can beat anyone in the world,” Isner said. “It's No. 1 vs. No. 2... It should be a great match.”
Opelka did not make it easy for the home favourite Isner, who played collegiate tennis at the University of Georgia in Athens, about an hour and 20 minutes away from Atlanta.
The big men – Opelka, 6'11”; Isner, 6'10” – battled for two hours on Stadium Court at Atlantic Station. After the first set went on serve, Isner led 5/3 in the tie-break but double faulted to give Opelka the mini-break back. Opelka took full advantage and ripped a cross-court backhand return winner for the set.
The veteran Isner quickly bounced back, grabbing the match's first break to lead 2-1 in the second set. He wouldn't face a break point the remainder of the set, either, winning 83 per cent of his service points, 20/24. The three-time Atlanta champion followed a similar script in the third, breaking Opelka to lead 3-2 and gaining an insurance break before serving out the match.
For the contest, Isner struck 22 aces and never faced a break point.
“I had to stay focused and keep holding my serve, and that's exactly what I did. I think experience was on my side,” Isner said. “But we're going to be seeing a lot of Reilly in the future.... He's way more advanced than I was at 18. I wish him all the success in the world.”
Opelka, who received a wild card into the main draw, gained his first career ATP World Tour singles win earlier in the week (d. Eubanks). Opelka is projected to jump about 450 spots in the Emirates ATP Rankings, from No. 837 to around No. 387.
“It was a good week. I had some good matches,” Opelka said. “I was pretty happy with how everything went this week.”