Atlanta second-round recap: Isner up to usual tricks

Second-round action in Atlanta concluded on Thursday night with John Isner winning yet another thriller at one of his favorite tournaments. Isner is joined in the quarterfinals by Jack Sock, who is still alive in both singles and doubles.

The BB&T Atlanta Open draw may have been depleted by a flurry of withdrawals, but an entertained crowd was treated to a thriller between two players with local ties as the second round wrapped up on Thursday. Former University of Georgia star John Isner saved two match points before outlasting Atlanta’s own Robby Ginepri 4-6, 7-6(5), 7-5.

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“It’s not easy coming in and playing your first match on a hard court in a while,” Isner explained. “Having a bye is nice, but at the same time your playing someone who has already been on the court and won a match. I got better as the match went on.”

Despite an improved level in the third set, the world No. 12 still found himself trailing 4-5, 15-40 against an inspired and in-form opponent. Ginepri, though, never had any chance on his two match points. Isner erased them with two straight aces, held for 5-5, then seized his only break of the night for a sudden 6-5 advantage. The 6’10” American promptly fired four more aces in succession to clinch victory.

“Just pick a spot and hit it,” Isner said when asked about staring match points in the face. “[Ginepri] was guessing quite a bit, but when he guessed right on the serve it came back every time. That’s what he does. That first one he guessed “T,” I went wide and thankfully I made it. On the second one he was kind of leaning wide, I went “T,” so I got a little lucky.”

In five Atlanta appearances, Isner has now won all five of his opening matches in three sets–three 7-5 in the third, one 6-4, and one 7-6(7). Isner is 13-3 lifetime in Atlanta with one title, two runner-up finishes, and
12 three-set matches played. He has played 18 tiebreakers in 16 matches, with a 12-6 record in those ‘breakers (including 9-1 in his last 10).

No. 2 seed Kevin Anderson, who was also playing his first hard-court match since Miami, struggled as well. Facing an opponent with plenty of tennis already under his belt from both Bogota and Atlanta, Anderson went down to Thiemo De Bakker 6-4, 7-5. The 6’8” South African, runner-up to Isner last year, led by a break in the second set but could not hold on. De Bakker, once as high as 40th in the world in 2010, is toiling down at No. 142 in the rankings but appears to be in resurgent form. The Dutchman has now won three ATP-level, main-draw matches in the last two weeks having previously won three the entire year.

“I think I wasn’t ready mentally,” De Bakker said when asked why he has fallen so far from his career-high ranking. “Physically I didn’t do enough at the end of the year I got to 40th. I struggled with the practices. (I was) not satisfied, but just not ready to handle it. (Tennis) was just maybe a hobby.’

De Bakker wins
Two other players riding a wave of momentum right now are Jack Sock and Vasek Pospisil. The Wimbledon doubles champions, seeded first this week, are through to the doubles semifinals and both men are also still alive in singles. Sock took care of Michael Venus 6-4, 6-2 on Wednesday, while Pospisil fought past Illya Marchenko 7-5, 6-3.

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Next up for Sock on Friday is the feature night match against Lukas Lacko. It has already been a great week for Lacko, who is into his first ATP quarterfinal of 2014. The Slovak opened with a straight-set win over wild card Nathan Pasha before beating Denis Istomin 5-7, 6-1, 6-4 in a back-and-forth and somewhat bizarre encounter on Wednesday.

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