Atlanta final preview and pick: Isner vs. Sela

John Isner will be contesting the Atlanta final for the fourth time in five years while also defending last season’s title when he takes the court on Sunday. Standing in the 6’10” American’s way of the trophy is 5’9” Israeli Dudi Sela.

John Isner: massive serve. Dudi Sela: self-admittedly, almost no serve whatsoever.

Isner: four Atlanta finals in five years. Eight career ATP titles. Sela: one final of any kind in any year. Zero career ATP titles.

It will be a tale of two very different players when Isner and Sela collide for the third time on Sunday afternoon in the BB&T Atlanta Open title match. They faced each other earlier this season in Delray Beach, where Isner improved to 2-0 in the head-to-head series by surviving 3-6, 6-1, 7-6(5). His previous win over Sela came via a 7-6(3), 6-2 decision at the 2011 Winston-Salem event.
Not unlike in his previous three runs to the Atlanta final, Isner has lived on thin ice at times this week. In fact, he had to save two match points in a 4-6, 7-6(5), 7-5 thriller against Robby Ginepri in his opener. The defending champion also fought off a set point against Marinko Matosevic and a break point against Jack Sock at 5-5 in the first set during those two straight-set but difficult wins. Isner is now 15-3 lifetime in Atlanta and 26-12 for his 2013 campaign.

“It’s tough to play against him,” Sela assured. “It’s going to be not easy. I have to get a lot of balls back, play with a lot of percentage; try to annoy him in the return. You have to guess sometimes (on the direction of Isner’s serve). With the second ball I have to be very quick even if I don’t hit a good return, the second one I have to be there.”

Sela was all over two other Americans earlier in the week. The 94th-ranked Israeli blasted Donald Young 6-3, 6-0 and Sam Querrey 6-2, 6-4 before holding off Vasek Pospisil 7-5, 1-6, 6-2 in the quarterfinals and Benjamin Becker 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 on Saturday night. An in-form Sela now has 15 wins at the ATP-level this season, including seven in his last three tournaments.

In his only previous ATP final, Sela ran into another big-serving American–Andy Roddick–and fell 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-3 six years ago in Beijing. Isner, on the other hand, is competing in his 18th career final and bidding for his ninth title.

Experience in these situations obviously favors Isner. Even discounting that factor, this is a bad matchup for the 5’9” Sela. Almost none of Isner’s serves will be anywhere near Sela’s strike zone, especially not in conditions amidst which the balls are traveling fast and bouncing high. Isner may be able to hold comfortably the entire way and his return game generally thrives–relatively speaking, of course–when he has time to set up and aggressively destroy weak deliveries. And Sela would be the first to admit that the serve is the weakest part of his game.

Pick: Isner in 2 with no tiebreakers

3 Comments on Atlanta final preview and pick: Isner vs. Sela

  1. The Big Dawg played his best tennis of the tourney yesterday against Sock…looked very sharp. He should roll ” Dudi Free”.

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