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John Isner, siembra 20, se recuperó luego de estar dos sets abajo en la primera ronda contra Frances Tiafoe

Isner, Sock Survive Five-Setters At US Open

Seeded Americans deliver epic matches to deny countrymen in the first round

John Isner overcame both Frances Tiafoe and recent history at the US Open on Monday, completing a 3-6, 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-2, 7-6(3) comeback in three hours and 27 minutes. It was Isner’s first win in seven final-set tie-breaks this year and only his second comeback from two-sets down in his career.

"The atmosphere was awesome. A lot of people were on their feet cheering in that match. They weren't just cheering for me at the end. It's why you play, it's why you work so hard," Isner said. "Winning in an atmosphere like that, in a close match, it's really sweet."

In a tough day for #NextGen Americans facing seeded countrymen, No. 23 seed Jack Sock later avoided a five-set boilover, holding off 18-year-old Taylor Fritz 7-6(3), 7-5, 3-6, 1-6, 6-4. It marked the pair’s second five-set encounter from as many FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings after Sock also prevailed in the first round at this year’s Australian Open.

Sock looked to have broken his younger countryman’s momentum when he surged to 4-0 in the deciding set. Serving for the match at 5-3, however, he let a match point slip, allowing Fritz to get back on serve. The reprieve was fleeting as Sock broke to close it out in three hours and 24 minutes.

Unlike Sock, the 31-year-old Isner made a slow start in his match against #NextGen player Tiafoe, who was looking for his first Grand Slam main-draw win. Tiafoe read the Isner serve well, limiting the 6’10” giant to 10 aces in the first two sets, and out-maneuvered the No. 1 American in the Emirates ATP Rankings from the baseline to build a commanding two-set lead in exactly an hour.

"I know how talented he is," Isner said. "At such a young age, he seems to be the type of kid who can rise up to the big occasion. He played very well.

"I was struggling to match his intensity. In the early part of the match he was all over me and was the better player hands down. I had to stick with it and had to try to tilt the match in my favour a little bit, which I was able to do."

Isner, who came into the match with a 6-15 record in five-set matches, overcame long odds. His lone previous comeback from two sets down was against countryman Ryan Harrison at Roland Garros in 2013. With little margin for error, Isner focused on making his serves count. He fired 12 aces and saved four break points to force a third set tie-break. In the fourth set, Isner pounced on Tiafoe’s second serves and broke serve twice to send the New York crowd into a frenzy.

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The final set was a microcosm of the entire match. Tiafoe ripped a backhand pass in the eighth game to serve for the match at 5-3. He was unable to close out a persistent Isner, who broke back and held twice more to force a deciding tie-break. A mini-break on the first point gave Isner a lead he would never surrender. He finished the match with 35 aces, 69 winners and moved on despite winning one fewer point than Tiafoe (148-149).

"I think at [3-5 in the final set] I probably played the best return game I played all match," Isner said. "He played very well, I thought, and he earned everything up to that point for sure. I just tried to stick with it. I was able to get back into that set. Even though I was pretty haggard out there, I got a jolt of energy when I got it back to 5-4."

In the second round, Isner will take on qualifier Steve Darcis, who also came back from two sets down to win. The Belgian survived a four-hour match against Aussie Jordan Thompson to prevail 5-7, 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-4, 7-5. He won 185 points to Thompson’s 184. It will be the pair’s first FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting.

Two other Americans were unable to hold onto their two-sets leads Monday. Brian Baker fell to Argentine Federico Delbonis 3-6, 6-7(6), 6-4, 6-2, 6-2, while reigning NCAA singles and doubles champion Mackenzie McDonald of UCLA lost against Czech qualifier Jan Satral 4-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2. American Bjorn Fratangelo, meanwhile, lost to Argentine Guido Pella 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.

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