Atlanta final preview and prediction: Isner vs. Harrison

The first two finals of the Atlanta tournament were all-American showdowns. Fast forward six years and two Americans will battle for the title yet again.

One of the faces is especially familiar.

John Isner, who lost the aforementioned finals to Mardy Fish in 2010 and 2011, will appear in his seventh championship match in the eight-year history of the event when he battles Ryan Harrison at the BB&T Atlanta Open on Sunday evening.

Isner is leading the head-to-head series 5-2, including 4-0 in the United States. However, the two Americans faced each other for the first time since 2013 when they met last season at the Canada Masters and Harrison prevailed 7-6(3), 6-7(4), 6-4. With that Harrison won his second hard-court match in a row against Isner and improved to 2-1 in their history on this surface.

But the world No. 42 has never run into Isner in Atlanta, where the situation could be entirely different. The former University of Georgia star is 26-4 lifetime at this tournament with three titles, three runner-up performances, and zero losses prior to the semifinals. He has been up to his usual tricks this week with routine defeats of Vasek Pospisil, Lukas Lacko, and Gilles Muller, none of whom even managed to force a tiebreaker.

Isner will get his preferred opponent in the title match, too.

“I am going to be pulling for Ryan,” he said prior to the Harrison vs. Kyle Edmund semifinal. “I always pull for Americans. To play an American in an ATP final would be very cool. With that being said, Ryan definitely has his hands full. It should be a very good match, but for sure I will be pulling for Ryan a little bit.”

Isner was right, as a three-set battle with Edmund eventually went Harrison’s way via a 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-4 decision. The 25-year-old had previously lost twice in the Atlanta semis, but he got over the hump on Saturday night to reach his second career ATP final. Harrison, who lifted the Memphis trophy earlier this season, has evened his ATP-level record for the year at 14-14 with victories over John Millman (who served for a straight-set win), Christopher Eubanks, and Edmund.

Now the competition gets tougher, but the No. 4 seed is looking forward to the test.

“John is one of my best friends,” he said. “We talk almost every day throughout the year. We both have the ability to put that aside and give it all we got. The good news is after those two and a half hours we are probably going to hang out and enjoy that we both made the finals.”

The way Isner has performed these past two weeks, Harrison may be lucky to reach the two-and-a-half-hours mark. Isner has held 72 straight service games dating back to Wimbledon, including 69 in Newport and Atlanta while being forced to save only five break points. Not one opponent in Newport generated a single break chance. Perhaps even more impressive is that Isner has broken serve 16 times in his last seven matches and has been pushed to just one tiebreaker during this stretch.

Based on Isner’s current form and his dominance in Atlanta, another title should be in the cards.

Pick: Isner in 2

6 Comments on Atlanta final preview and prediction: Isner vs. Harrison

  1. Man I was basically yelling “Let’s Go Ryan” every point by the end of it I was so pumped up. I really thought he would at least take the second set. Great match by both guys. John was just a little too clutch in big moments. Ryan should’ve taken advantage of early break in the second set but couldn’t. Great battle and great tournament for both guys.

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