Atlanta R2 previews and picks: Isner vs. Harrison, Sijsling vs. Harrison

The Harrison Brothers will be back in singles action on Thursday in Atlanta. They are both underdogs in respective second-round matches against John Isner and Igor Sijsling.

(1) John Isner vs. (WC) Christian Harrison

Making his fourth appearance in as many installments of the BB&T Atlanta Open, Isner is still in search of his first title at the event located just west of where he attended the University of Georgia for four years. On all three previous occasions, Isner lost to the eventual champion–twice to Mardy Fish in the final and last season to Andy Roddick in the semis. The 6’9” American is not playing quite as well in 2013 as he did in recent campaigns, but he captured a clay-court title in Houston this spring and is coming off a semifinal finish in Newport.

Up first for Isner following a first-round bye is the younger of the two Harrison brothers. The 19-year-old played the first ATP-level main-draw match of his career on Wednesday and upset Bogota runner-up Alejandro Falla 6-1, 6-7(7), 6-2. Harrison, a 2012 U.S. Open doubles quarterfinalist (with Ryan), registers at No. 373 in the world in singles. He has a big enough game to consistently hold serve against a relatively poor returner like Isner, but the top seed will almost certainly showcase too much firepower and too much experience in pressure moments.

Pick: Isner in 2

Ryan Harrison vs. (4) Igor Sijsling

Harrison and Sijsling will also be going head-to-head for the first time in their careers on Thursday. Like Isner, Sijsling earned an opening-round bye so he will now be contesting a match at this tournament for the first time in his career. The 25-year-old Dutchman is enjoying a breakout season on tour, which features 17 of his 30 career ATP-level match victories. Sijsling, who comes in four spots off his best ranking at No. 59 in the world, reached the Newport quarterfinals earlier this summer before losing his Bogota opener to eventual champion Ivo Karlovic.

A 2011 Atlanta semifinalist, Harrison has already improved on his 2012 performance–in which he fell to James Blake in the first round. The 21-year-old ousted Marinko Matosevic 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 on Monday as he improved his still-disappointing 2013 record to 6-15. Slumping down at 132nd in the world, Harrison lost in the opening round in four of five grass-court events this summer (the exception was a second-round showing in Eastbourne as a qualifier). However, he has always done his best work on American hard courts. With home-court advantage and confidence from a scalp of Matosevic, Harrison has a good shot at an upset unless Sijsling is able to dictate play with a dominant first-serve percentage.

Pick: Harrison in 3

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