Big John's Big Win: Isner Into US Open QFs
"Fortunately for me there were no tie-breaks. There wasn't one in the fifth. That's a high-pressure situation. I would have relished it if that moment did come, but I was able to win in a little bit easier fashion," Isner said. "Everyone was expecting maybe five tie-breaks. If that's the case, so be it. But I didn't go out there expecting that. I knew that I could try to impose myself as best as I possibly could, try to do it without winning with a seven on the ledger."
The best season of the 33-year-old’s career continues to get better. He earned his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title five months ago in Miami. And then at SW19, he battled into the last four of a major for the first time, before losing 26-24 to Kevin Anderson in an epic fifth set.
"There are some matches I've played where I only just rely on my serve. But I think more times than not this year I've shown some other ability," Isner said. "That comes from just being relaxed on the court. It's not a product of more reps and more practice. The mental part of the game, being able to free up on the tennis court is much easier said than done. I've been able to, for the most part this year, do a pretty good job of that. In the past, that's what's held me back."
Isner has now won four consecutive FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings against Raonic, taking a 5-1 lead in their rivalry. Entering the match, the Canadian held a better fifth-set record (9-6) compared to his opponent (10-18). But that didn’t matter as day turned to night in Flushing Meadows.
The No. 11 seed, who also came from a set down to eliminate Raonic at Wimbledon earlier this year, broke serve four times to advance after three hours and eight minutes. On the third break point he faced in his opening service game of the decider, Raonic double faulted, and Isner did not let him off the hook the rest of the way, breaking for the second time in the set to clinch his victory.
Entering the match, Isner led the tournament in percentage of service games won, having captured 97 per cent (63/65) of them through three rounds. But astonishingly, Raonic broke the home favourite in his first service game of the match. And as you’d expect in a battle of two of the biggest servers in tennis, Raonic held throughout the opener to earn the first set.
And perhaps even more surprisingly, that became a theme in their clash. The players had combined to hold 109 of their 114 service games in the six total matches they had played, meaning they were broken a combined five times. Yet there were six breaks of serve across the five sets played.
Isner, who hit 20 aces and now has a tournament-leading 112 of them, will next face 2009 champion Juan Martin del Potro or World No. 20 Borna Coric. If he should beat the winner of that match, he will become the first American man to reach the semi-finals of the US Open since Andy Roddick made the final here in 2006.
Raonic was trying to reach the quarter-finals in New York for the first time. If he would have beaten the American, the 27-year-old would have become the 12th active player to reach the last eight at all four majors.