Isner triumphs again at Atlanta stomping grounds, beats Harrison in two tiebreakers

Another year, another Atlanta title for John Isner.

Playing in his seventh final in the eight-year history of the tournament, Isner captured his fourth BB&T Atlanta Open title by beating Ryan Harrison 7-6(6), 7-6(7) on Sunday evening. The 6’10” American blasted 23 aces and double-faulted only once to prevail after one hour and 47 minutes.

Isner is now 27-4 lifetime Atlanta with three runner-up showings to go along with his quartet of winners’ trophies.

“We’re going to rename this the John Isner Open,” joked tournament director Eddie Gonzalez during the trophy ceremony.

Harrison, however, was not without chances to flip the script. The No. 4 seed led by a mini-break in both tiebreakers and also had a break early in the second set before giving it right back with a donation of serve at 2-0. Harrison actually seized mini-breaks twice in the opening ‘breaker, but he lost service points at 1-0 and 5-4. Isner, who saved a set point at 5-6, eventually capitalized on his second set point by crushing a forehand return winner at 8-7.

The world No. 20 raised his level throughout the match whenever he was facing a deficit. Trailing 2-0 in the second, Isner managed to break back in the third game of set despite bloodying his right knuckles by punching his strings when he butchered a swinging forehand volley into the net with Harrison serving at 15-30. The former University of Georgia star treated the crowd to another tiebreaker and recovered from a 4-1 deficit to take it. He missed one match point on Harrison’s serve at 6-5 but seized a match-ending mini-break at 8-7 with a huge forehand.

It is Isner’s second straight title, having previously triumphed on the grass courts of Newport last week. During his eight-match winning streak, the former top-10 player has been broken only once–by Harrison–and has played only three tiebreakers.

That’s no real surprise given that Isner has now captured a combined seven titles in Newport and Atlanta.

“He’s tough,” Harrison said of his countryman and good friend. “I know I can play here, too. I wasn’t really thinking about him playing here. I knew I was going to get my chances and I was playing good tennis I felt like I belonged here. I wasn’t surprised to be in the position I was in those sets. It didn’t work out my way, but I think that it’s this type of tennis where I get opportunities and if I put myself in the right position I’ll have a lot of wins.”

Isner agreed.

“There wasn’t really much that separated us at all,” the champion admitted. “I knew going into today that it could be like that…. We held serve throughout the match but we had this one stretch where we went two straight breaks. So I’m happy to win that match in straight sets and through these last two weeks I haven’t played three sets yet, which is pretty nice.

“But (I’m) very happy to win today. It was a battle (in which) I needed every ounce of my energy out there. More importantly, I’m so happy to win this tournament again. This tournament has meant everything to me.”

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