Isner, Sock leave Tiafoe, Fritz out of American torch relay at U.S. Open

There was no passing of torches in American men’s tennis at the U.S. Open on Monday. But to say there almost was would be understatement.

Contesting the first-ever men’s match on the new Grandstand at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, John Isner and Frances Tiafoe battled for three hours and 27 minutes before the outcome could be decided. It was the much younger Tiafoe who stormed out of the gates with a burst of energy, but the veteran Isner clawed back for a 3-6, 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-2, 7-6(3) opening-round victory.

Playing on a wild-card entry and with basically nothing to lose, Tiafoe broke his heavily-favored opponent at love for an immediate 2-0 lead and he never looked back throughout the first two sets. The 18-year-old struggled only when he played from ahead, as pressure began to mount. Isner slowly sank his teeth into the match and the 31-year-old soon found himself deadlocked at two sets apiece, heading for a fifth.

Tiafoe steadied himself in the decider and seized a crucial break of the Isner serve for a 5-3 edge. But with the biggest win of his career on his racket, the underdog cracked. Isner broke to stay alive for 4-5, held easily for 5-5, and maintained momentum the rest of the way. The world No. 21, America’s top player by just one ranking spot over Steve Johnson, cruised through the decisive tiebreaker to cap off his dramatic comeback.
Isner wins 2
“I wasn’t,” Isner answered when asked if he was surprised by Tiafoe’s level of play. “I mean, I know how talented he is. At such a young age, he seems to be the type of kid that can rise up to the big occasion. He played, I thought, very well.”

“I don’t really know what John said,” Tiafoe said of their lengthy embrace at the net. “I just heard him say, ‘You’re going to be great,’ and I was kind of crying on his shoulder. But, yeah, he’s so nice. We’re such good friends. And then the last thing I heard him say is, ‘Don’t let this get you down.’

“For American tennis, I think it’s looking really good. I think we have a lot of guys that are going to be very good. I think American tennis is definitely on the right path. We just got to keep our heads down and keep doing the work and I think we’re going to have good careers.”

Also 18 years old, Taylor Fritz has already done plenty of good things on the main tour. Up to 54th in the world, Fritz owns 14 ATP-level match victories during his brief career. A 15th almost came to fruition on Monday evening.

Instead, Jack Sock survived a second straight five-setter between the two countrymen by holding off the 18-year-old 7-6(3), 7-5, 3-6, 1-6, 6-4 in three hours and 24 minutes. Sock, a relative veteran compared to Fritz at 23 years old, gave back two breaks in the fifth set but broke when at mattered most at 5-4 to stumble across the finish line.
Sock 1
“I think the younger Americans are doing a great job of making a splash–making names for themselves early,” said Sock, who also defeated Fritz in five at this season’s Australian Open. “Taylor has been a pro for a year and some change now and he’s already in the top 60. Yeah, these guys are playing great tennis. They’re playing with confidence.”

Isner would not disagree.

“I can’t say enough about Frances,” he added. “I’ve always liked him. Always. He’s a great guy. He has a fantastic future.”

But on Monday, at least, the future wasn’t now. For now, the future is still the future.

2 Comments on Isner, Sock leave Tiafoe, Fritz out of American torch relay at U.S. Open

  1. That was a great match, loved the way Isner fought back. The hug at the end was perfect, such class from both players!

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