Isner, Harrison look to continue American dominance in Atlanta

Perhaps nowhere are American men more dominant than they are at the BB&T Atlanta Open.

In the seven-year history of the tournament, at least one American has played for the title on every single occasion. Of the 14 finalists in those seven installments, nine have hailed from the host nation. Only once has a United States representative failed to lift the winner’s trophy, and that was when Australia’s Nick Kyrgios toppled John Isner 7-6(3), 7-6(4) in last summer’s final.

Of course, that was merely an aberration to the rule that is Isner’s reign in Atlanta. No one deserves as much thanks as Isner for the overall American success at this event. The former University of Georgia star boasts an incredible 25-4 record and he is currently through to his eighth consecutive semifinal since the tournament moved south from Indianapolis in 2010. Isner finished runner-up to Mardy Fish in 2010 and 2011, fell to eventual champion Andy Roddick in the 2012 semifinals, and then reeled off three straight titles in 2013, 2014, and 2015.

In Saturday’s semifinals he will face Wimbledon quarterfinalist Gilles Muller, against whom he is 2-0 lifetime in Atlanta.

“I have a pretty good record here in Atlanta,” Isner said with a laugh after beating Lukas Lacko 7-5, 6-4 during quarterfinal action on Friday. “I do not want to jinx it right now, but I’ve always played well here. Of course I love this tournament. I come here every year. I’ve been fortunate enough to be healthy every year and keep coming back.”

Ryan Harrison is making his sixth appearance at this event, returning from an absence in 2016 when he was saddled with a low ranking and instead opted to play World Team Tennis.

Low ranking no longer.

In the midst of his best season on tour, Harrison reached a career-high mark of 40th in the world last week and he now registers at No. 42. He captured his first career ATP title on the indoor hard courts of Memphis and finds himself in his second semifinal of the year on the heels of an opening bye, a comeback 6-7(2), 7-6(4), 7-5 victory over John Millman, and a 6-1, 6-2 blowout of Christopher Eubanks. It is Harrison’s third career semifinal in Atlanta, where he will try to go one step farther at the expense of Saturday night opponent Kyle Edmund.

“Oh yeah, I love it,” the 25-year-old said of this event. “It is like home. I grew up playing all the southern tournaments, coming to Macon, Atlanta, Alpharetta–all over the place. Being here feels as close to home as it gets.”

Harrison just wishes that Americans benefited from the same crowd support at other U.S.-based tour stops.

“You got everybody from the crowd, to the DJ, to anyone out here willing to step up and help pull you through when you are down a set and a break,” Harrison explained. “Honestly, I just wish that was how it was at every U.S. Open Series event because we certainly need more of that and less of (Gael) Monfils being the crowd favorite versus Isner.”

That statement referenced a 2013 U.S. Open showdown in which Monfils had the fans firmly in his corner during a four-set loss to Isner. But that match certainly has not stopped Isner from loving–and thriving at–all tournaments in the United States.

“Most importantly I am at home in the United States,” Isner said on Friday when asked why this is always his best time of year. “I am playing on my favorite surface, as well. The hot conditions where the ball is getting up high on my opponents, but I am able to hit the ball at my shoulder length, which is exactly where I want to hit the ball. So it’s a lot of things that go into it. I think most importantly I am very comfortable playing at home in the United States. It is one of the reasons I do well.”

When it comes to Atlanta, specifically, “well” is a gross understatement.

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