tiebreaker

John Isner Sees Top 10 Hopes Hindered by Tiebreaks

The 2011 ATP World Tour season was undoubtedly one to remember for John Isner: He reached his first Grand Slam quarterfinal, won two titles over the summer and is coming off his first career Masters semifinal in Paris. There he fell to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in a final-set tiebreak after holding three match points.

Ahh, the tiebreak: The method used to determine the winner of a 6-all set at regular ATP events and the U.S. Open provided some forgettable experiences this year for Isner. The 6’9” American, who led the tour in aces and service games won, fell short at more than a few crucial moments over the course of the season, defying the conventional wisdom that ‘breakers always favor the big server.

And as impressive as his year was, could it have been even better—perhaps with a top-10 finish? Let’s take a look at some of the missed opportunities in 2011, aside from the Tsonga match:

Australian Open, Third Round

Marin Cilic d. Isner: 4-6, 6-2, 6-7(5), 7-6(2), 9-7
This match-up in the round of 32 pitted two of the game’s biggest servers against one another. Each of them served more than 20 aces, but it was the Croatian who came out on top, rallying from two sets to one down. A win, though, in the fourth-set tiebreak would have enabled Isner to defend his round-of-16 points from the prior year. As it was, his ranking took a minor hit.

Atlanta, Finals

Mardy Fish d. Isner: 3-6, 7-6(6), 6-2
Isner entered the rematch of the previous year’s final on an eight-match winning streak, which included taking the title at the grass-court event in Newport, RI. Isner was at the top of his game and in the second set, found himself with two match points, including one on his serve. However, it wasn’t to be and Fish denied Isner the title for the second year in a row.

Washington, Semifinals

Gael Monfils d. Isner: 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(6)
Despite the tough loss at his prior tournament in Atlanta, Isner’s strong play continued at the Washington event, the place he first made his presence known on the ATP tour in 2007 with a surprise run to the finals. That year he defeated Monfils in the semifinals, but it would be the Frenchman who would exact a bit of payback in 2011. Isner fought off two match points and eventually got one of his own, but Monfils held steady and advanced to the finals.

U.S. Open, Quarterfinals

Andy Murray d. Isner: 7-5, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(2)
This match presented a complete contrast of styles: One of the game’s biggest servers faced off against one of its most brilliant returners in Murray. Plus, Isner was in completely unfamiliar territory as this was his first career Slam quarterfinal, while Murray was playing in his fourth of the year. Murray came up with crucial breaks in the first two sets to capture them. Isner, though, showed he wasn’t done as he took the third, then garnered break points to serve for the fourth set. Murray staved those off and got the set to a breaker, which he swept through with the loss of two points. That brought Isner’s nine-match winning streak to a halt—as well as his Grand Slam hopes for ‘11.

Those four losses alone cost Isner a title, a final, a Slam semi and fourth-round appearance. But if anything was gained from those defeats—as well as other tiebreak losses at Davis Cup and Masters events—Isner did show resiliency, evidenced by the winning streaks he was able to put together. Perhaps, a little bit more luck under those circumstances could lift him even higher up the rankings.

Or maybe doing away with the tiebreak altogether would be to his advantage? It’s been well-documented how he performs in those conditions.

AGNIESZKA RADWANSKA DEFEATS ANA IVANOVIC IN STUTTGART

Ana Ivanovic continues her free fall by losing in the first round of the Porsche Grand Prix in Stuttgart. But saying that would mean not giving credit to a well deserved victory for Agnieszka Radwanska.

In another first-round match, fifth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland defeated former No. 1 Ana Ivanovic of Serbia 7-6 (4), 6-4.

Radwanska led 4-1 before Ivanovic pulled even to force the tiebreaker. But the less error-prone Radwanska won it and also took the second set. Ivanovic has dropped to No. 57 in less than two years since winning the French Open.

Photos by our photographer Ralf Reinecke.

[nggallery id=38]

Courier Tops Sampras To Win Breezeplay Title In Charlotte

CHARLOTTE, N.C., September 27, 2009 – Jim Courier defeated Pete Sampras 2-6, 6-4, 10-8 (Champions Tie-breaker) Sunday to win the singles title at the $150,000 Breezeplay Championships at The Palisades at The Palisades Country Club in Charlotte, N.C. The victory was Courier’s first over Sampras since the first round of the 1997 Italian Open in Rome and his first on a hard court over the 14-time major singles champion since the quarterfinals of the 1991 US Open.

Courier earned $60,000 by winning the title in Charlotte, his ninth career title on the Outback Champions Series, the global tennis circuit for champion tennis players age 30 and over. Courier also earned 800 ranking points to extend his lead as the No. 1 player on the Outback Champions Series.

After splitting the first two sets, the two Hall of Famers played the customary first-to-10 point “Champions” tie-breaker, played in lieu of a third set. Courier clinched victory when Sampras double-faulted at 8-9 in the tie-breaker.

“That last double fault was hard on match point,” said Sampras. “I was serving right into the sun on that one and it hurt a little bit.”

Said Courier, “I wasn’t expecting that match point to end on a double fault. He was going for 110 mph second serves and sometimes he’s good enough to get away with that serve.”

During their ATP careers, Sampras and Courier played a total of 20 times, Sampras winning on 16 occasions, including the Wimbledon final in 1993. Sampras won their only previous meeting on the Outback Champions Series, a 6-2, 6-4 win in round-robin play during the 2007 event in Athens, Greece.

“I think he was having a hard time picking up my serve at the beginning,” said Sampras, who earned $30,000 for the runner-up showing. “Eventually he got there and started predicting it. Jim’s a guy who’s always going to compete and I knew that once we started the second set. I knew he was going to compete for that second set. I had a few chances in that tiebreaker and just couldn’t get it. It was disappointing.”

Due to weekend rains in Charlotte, Courier was forced to play his semifinal match against Todd Martin at 10 am on Sunday, postponed from Saturday evening. Following his 7-5, 6-2 semifinal win over Martin, Courier was able rest until the final with Sampras started at 4 pm, following Martin’s 7-5, 6-2 win over Pat Cash in the event’s third-place match.

“I was pretty relieved when his match point serve went out,” said Courier of the final point of the singles final. “I felt flat in the first set. I thought I’d be loose, but my legs felt tight and lethargic. I definitely got more boost in my legs and my serve really started to click. If my serve clicks I can hang in the match.”

The loss marked only the second time that Sampras has been defeated on the Outback Champions Series since joining the circuit in 2007. In 2008, he lost to John McEnroe 2-6, 7-5 10-4 (Champions Tie-breaker) in round-robin play in Boston.

Sampras won the opening event on the 2009 Outback Champions Series, defeating McEnroe in the final of the Champions Cup Boston in February.
McEnroe won the second event of the year in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, defeating Courier in the final. Sampras won his second title of the year at the Del Mar Development Champions Cup in Los Cabos, Mexico, defeating Rafter in the final. Courier won his first title of the 2009 season in April at the Cayman Islands, defeating Arias in the final. Cash successfully defended his title on the grass courts at the Hall of Fame Champions Cup in Newport, R.I. in August, defeating Courier in the final. Following Charlotte, the next event on the Outback Champions Series will be held in Surprise, Ariz., where Andre Agassi will make his debut Oct. 8-11.

Founded in 2005, the Outback Champions Series features some of the biggest names in tennis over the last 25 years, including Andre Agassi, Sampras, McEnroe, Courier and others. To be eligible to compete on the Outback Champions Series, players must have reached at least a major singles final, been ranked in the top five in the world or played singles on a championship Davis Cup team. The Outback Champions Series features seven events on its 2009 schedule with each event featuring $150,000 in prize money as well as Champions Series points that will determine the year-end Champions Rankings No. 1.

InsideOut Sports + Entertainment is a New York City-based independent producer of proprietary events and promotions founded in 2004 by former world No. 1 and Hall of Fame tennis player Jim Courier and former SFX and Clear Channel executive Jon Venison. In 2005, InsideOut launched its signature property, the Outback Champions Series, a collection of tennis events featuring the greatest names in tennis over the age of 30. In addition, InsideOut produces many other successful events including “Legendary Night” exhibitions, charity events, corporate outings and tennis fantasy camps such as the annual “Ultimate Fantasy Camp”. Through 2008, InsideOut Sports + Entertainment events have raised over $4 million for charity. For more information, please log on to www.InsideOutSE.com or www.ChampionsSeriesTennis.com.

Isner Upsets Roddick In An Open Classic

With the crowd against him and Andy Roddick becoming more energized as the match progressed, John Isner dug deep to pull off the biggest upset of his career.

As day turned into night in front of a packed crowd on Arthur Ashe Stadium, Isner hit a staggering 90 winners in his nearly four hour match with Roddick, bringing the crowd to its feet as he advanced into the 4th round with a 7-6 (3), 6-3, 3-6, 5-7, 7-6 (5) victory.

“Once I got the first set, I knew that I was in with a chance,” said Isner. “He wore me down and had me on a string when we played a few weeks ago (in Washington D.C.), so I knew I had to be more aggressive in this match.”

The first set went by in straightforward fashion, with each player holding their serve throughout. Isner went down 0-40 while serving at 3-3, but rallied with two aces and a forehand winner to eventually take the game.

A forehand into the net sent Isner down an early mini-break in the first set tiebreaker, but he immediately rebounded with a string of winners. A backhand passing shot gave Isner back the mini-break on Roddick’s serve, and he followed it up with four more consecutive winners to give himself four set points. A missed forehand erased one of them, but a 112 MPH second serve ace on the next point allowed Isner to take the opening set.

“You can’t teach 6’9”,” said Roddick. “He’s serving out of a tree and really dialed in with his ground strokes in that tiebreaker. I don’t know if I really did anything wrong out there. He just hit his spots when he needed to.”

Midway through the second set, with Isner leading 3-2, Roddick mistimed two forehands in a row to send go down double break point. One point later, Isner guided Roddick into the net with a drop shot and then sent a backhand pass up the line to take a 4-2 lead.

The break of serve would be all that the Greensboro native needed. A volley winner while leading 5-3 gave Isner two set points. On his first one, Isner hammered down his 17th ace of the match at that point and took a commanding two set lead.

At 1-1 in the third set, Isner had triple break point on Roddick’s serve after the former US Open champion’s backhand began to betray him. With the crowd now squarely on Roddick’s side, he erased all three points and then hit a 128 MPH ace to deny a fourth chance for Isner to break.

With Isner serving down 3-4, Roddick began to display a retrieving ability normally uncharacteristic of his style. He returned an Isner overhead to force a volley error, giving him two break points. On his second opportunity, Roddick ran down an Isner volley and hit a forehand winner up the line to lead 5-3. He quickly held serve, hitting an ace on his first set point to take the third set.

The effects of the match began to take their toll on Isner. He began moving more slowly and started stretching his left leg during the changeovers. Roddick had a chance to break Isner’s serve at 3-3, but the former NCAA champion bravely knocked off a volley winner and eventually kept the match on serve.

With Roddick serving at 4-5, he hit his first double fault of the match to give Isner a match point. What looked to be the finish ended up being the last point that Isner would win in the set.

A 121 MPH ace by Roddick brought the game back to deuce and the crowd gave him a standing ovation. Two more big serves leveled the match at 5-5. With the sold-out stadium chanting “Let’s go Roddick,” Isner appeared overwhelmed by the occasion. He missed two routine forehands and then hit an overhead well beyond the baseline to go down triple break point in the game. A forehand pass by Roddick gave him the break, and he leveled the match at two sets each with a 130 MPH serve.

“I wasn’t too upset about it because there wasn’t anything I could do,” said Isner. “I might have thought about it differently if it was a missed overhead or an easy shot, but he aced me. It was just too good.”

Isner went down 0-30 in his opening service game, but ended his losing streak at 13 consecutive points with an ace, eventually holding serve to start the 5th set. Despite taking an early lead, Roddick still looked fresh as the match wore on, while Isner began gingerly around the baseline, eventually calling for the trainer at 3-2.

“I was cramping a little bit late in the match,” said Isner. “He was definitely the fresher of the two of us out there, but I knew that I was still in the match.”

The two players traded service holds to force a deciding tiebreaker after nearly four hours of play. With Isner up 3-2 on Roddick’s serve, he hit one of his only cross-court passing shots of the day to grab the mini-break and a 4-2 lead.

“That’s when you have to tip your hat,” said Roddick. “I was covering the line because he had been going there all day, and you don’t expect to see a low dipping crosscourt shot at a moment like that.”

A successful serve and volley play on Isner’s second serve, followed by a drop volley winner, gave Isner two match points at 6-3. Roddick removed the first two match points with aces of his own, forcing Isner to serve it out. Coming in behind a short backhand by Roddick, Isner’s first volley forced Roddick to hit a forehand into the net. Isner dropped to the ground in celebration as the crowd rose to their feet, cheering for the arrival of a new American star.

“I don’t know if (the win) has really sunk in yet,” said Isner. “It’s by far the biggest win of my career, hands down. Nothing even comes close. And I kind of knew that if the match went a little bit long, it would turn into a night match and I really wanted to be in that atmosphere. The crowd was giving me goose bumps at times.

Ranked well outside the top 100 just three months ago, Isner will find himself just outside of the top 40 with his first ever appearance in the second week of a Grand Slam.

“If you had told me this would happen a month ago, I wouldn’t have believed you,” said Isner. “Being out with mono for a month, you’re not even sure if you’ll be able to play the US Open, let alone do well. You can definitely say I’m a bit surprised by all of this.

With a fourth round showdown against No. 10 seed Fernando Verdasco scheduled for Monday, Isner said he’s looking forward to going even further in the tournament.

“It’s a great win to have, but I still feel like I can do some damage,” said Isner. “I’m not satisfied just yet.”

John Isner Advances Into Second Round at US Open

Although it looked like an upset on paper, John Isner’s form this summer has shown he is ready to start beating the top players on the ATP Tour.

In a match between two of the tallest players in pro tennis, Greensboro native John Isner fought off 10 set points in one of the longest tiebreakers in US Open history, and advanced into the second round with a 6-1, 7-6 (14), 7-6 (5) win over Victor Hanescu of Romania, the No. 28 seed in the event.

The first set was dominated by Isner. Holding serve easily and taking advantage of the lack of depth in Hanescu’s groundstrokes, Isner charged the net relentlessly, breaking Hanescu’s serve twice in seizing the opening set, 6-1.

“I started off so well,” said Isner. “That first set and a half was as well as I’ve played in a long time.”

After Isner broke serve early in the second set and held a break point to take a commanding 4-1 lead, the end result appeared to be a foregone conclusion. Hanescu saved the break point with an ace and Isner’s forehand suddenly began to betray him. Isner dropped serve at 3-2 with three forehand errors and a missed overhead.

“It doesn’t look like he’s that fast out there, but he gets to a lot of balls,” said Isner. “He was making me hit a lot of extra shots and unfortunately, I started missing a few.”

The two players traded service holds throughout the rest of the second set to force a tiebreaker. A missed backhand sent Isner down a mini-break as the Romanian seemed content to guide the ball into the court, forcing Isner into unforced errors.

Hanescu soon found himself serving with triple set point at 6-3. That’s when Isner began to do the unthinkable.

He fought off one set point with an ace, then another with an overhead smash. A forehand error by Hanescu leveled the tiebreaker at 6-6. Isner fought off five more set points in a row, mainly with crushing groundstroke winners that clipped the baseline. Isner reached his first set point at 12-11, but was unable to convert and sent a forehand into the net.

Isner fought off two more set points to level the tiebreaker at 14-14. A poorly executed drop shot by Hanescu allowed the American to rip a backhand up the line, giving him a second set point. At 15-14, a forehand volley winner gave Isner the second set as the crowd gave him a standing ovation.

“I started off a little bit slow and obviously didn’t really want to go a tiebreaker,” said Isner. “I think he had five (set points) on his serve, and each one of his points I played really well. I told myself if I could just get one advantage, I might be able to take it.”

Isner and Hanescu easily held serve throughout the third set, with neither player facing a break point. In the tiebreaker, two consecutive forehand winners by Isner allowed him to go up 2-1. He held on the lead for the rest of the match, converting on his first match point with a forehand winner to advance into the second round, where he will play Marcel Ilhan of Turkey.

Just three months after being diagnosed with mononucleosis and missing Roland Garros and Wimbledon, Isner has been able to achieve semifinal performances this summer at Indianapolis and Washington D.C, as well as a quarterfinal finish at Los Angeles. Isner said he is still working on regaining full fitness, but has been producing the most consistent string of results in his career.

“Missing the whole European swing might have been a blessing in disguise,” said Isner. “I’ve felt fresh ever since I started playing in the States.”

With his ranking currently at a career high of No. 55, Isner said his immediate goal is to reach the top 50 and ultimately, to be talked about as a player well beyond the American swing.

“I want to become a big name in tennis, not just American tennis,” said Isner.

Federer Finally Wins French Open

Roger Federer defeated surprise finalist Robin Soderling 6-2, 7-6(1), 6-4 for his first French Open victory on Sunday and in the process cemented his place as the greatest tennis player of all time. Apart from it being his first win on the red clay of Paris, it gave Federer a career Grand Slam – a win at each of the four marquee events on tour and also tied him for the most Grand Slam tournaments of all time, a mark he now shares with Pete Sampras at fourteen apiece.

Previously defeated in three French Open finals against his great rival Rafael Nadal, everything went Federer’s way this time around as the world number two dominated his younger and less experienced opponent. He cruised in the opening set by breaking Soderling’s serve three times. Despite the fact that the second set produced no breaks, Federer dominated when it mattered by delivering four aces in the tiebreaker alone. An early break in the third set and it was all over in less than two hours.

Federer’s serve was lethal in the final, winning 85% of his first serve points, and 66% of his second serve points along with 16 aces. He also produced many unreachable balls with a drop-shot we have rarely seen him use as effectively in the past. Despite the weight of history on his shoulders, he only appeared nervous during the second set when a deranged fan managed to run onto the court and momentarily disrupt Federer’s path to victory. On this day it was Soderling who appeared quite uneasy in his first Grand Slam final. The Swede only delivered brief glimpses of the dangerous forehand he successfully used earlier in the week against the defending champion Nadal and a host of other dangerous clay court players. It was still a incredible week for Soderling who will rise to a career high ranking of 12 in the world.

After the match, an elated Federer fittingly received the winner’s trophy from former tennis great Andre Agassi – the last man to accomplish the career Grand Slam. Shedding tears of joy as they played the Swiss national anthem, it was apparent to all in attendance and to those watching at home just how much this moment meant for Federer. In a post-match interview with John McEnroe, Federer revealed that along with his initial Grand Slam win at Wimbledon in 2003, this win was the most satisfying.

After dealing with the momentous pressure to win that was left in the wake of Nadal’s fourth round departure, barely making it past Tommy Haas and Juan Martin Del Potro in tough five set matches, and playing his best tennis when it mattered against Soderling, his victory was just as satisfying for all who had the pleasure to watch.
Felicitations Roger!