ATLANTA – Four ATP titles into his career, former UGA tennis player John Isner has yet to claim one he’d like most to get.
Former UGA player John Isner will represent the United States at the London Olympics.
Isner now heads to the Olympics after a three-set loss to U.S. teammate Andy Roddick in Saturday night’s semifinal of the BB&T Atlanta Open. The defeat comes after consecutive losses to Mardy Fish in the past two finals of the Atlanta tour stop.
“It’s pretty disappointing,” Isner said. “Three years in this tournament, I’ve lost to two Americans, good friends of mine. It’s tough. I’ve always wanted to win this tournament. It just wasn’t to be, but it’s really no shame losing to either one of those guys.”
This was the showcase, the matchup everyone wanted to see.
High on the side of the Regal Cinemas building, overlooking the stadium court crammed into the Atlantic Station section of Midtown, are two larger-than-life pictures to promote this year’s event.
One is of Isner. Another is Roddick. So when those two Americans showed up in real life on the same court Saturday night, the tournament’s first sold-out crowd in two years was waiting for them.
They clapped, shouted and even barked during a two-hour, 27-minute semifinal that ended with fourth-seeded Roddick eliminating the top-seed Isner 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-4 to advance into a Sunday final against Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller that now looms a bit anticlimactic after this heavyweight serve-fest.
With both players routinely topping 130 miles an hour on serves – and Isner even touching 140 – the match featured only two breaks of serve. Both were by Roddick, despite the fact Isner totaled 26 aces to Roddick’s seven.
Serves were so prominent that Isner’s tiebreak victory in the second set was decided by one lost service point.
Red and black "Team Isner" shirts were on sale Saturday night at the BB&T Atlanta Open.
“Most people in the ‘breaker, you can recover from losing one service point,” Roddick said. “Against him, that’s not necessarily the case. I’m not sure that I missed a ball besides a service return in the tiebreaker and still lost to him. With his serve, a lot of times it’s out of your control.”
Isner failed to convert two break points in Roddick’s first serve game of the match and wouldn’t reach another one the entire match.
Meanwhile, Roddick made the bigger shots in bigger moments. After letting five break points slip away in the final set, Roddick finally won the sixth, which was also a second match point.
“He was the better player tonight,” Isner said. “He was just a little better than me. That’s why he won, so hats-off to him.”
Now ranked No. 27 in the world, the 29-year-old Roddick has now won 10 of his past 11 matches. He is returning to form just in time for the Olympics, during which he’ll play doubles with Isner for Team USA.
“I’m excited,” Roddick said. “I went through a real bad stretch there, and I have a chance to win my second tournament in three tournaments. So it feels nice to be playing well again. … Winning is contagious, and I think losing is also. It’s a fine line.”
Isner, the world's No. 11-ranked player (and top American) entered Saturday night on a seven-match win streak of his own, having won a grass-court event in Newport, R.I., last week.
Next up for him is another grass-court event and a debut appearance in the Olympics. The tennis competition of the London Games will take place at Wimbledon.
Prior to that, Isner plans to participate in the opening ceremonies and said he hopes to catch some other events – particularly basketball – during the Games.
“Barring anything unforeseen,” Isner said, “I will be there (at the opening ceremonies). … That’s what I’m turning my focus towards now, the Olympics. I really haven’t thought about it that much, because I have been focusing on some things at hand, last week and this week. But it’s going to be a different experience for me. It’s something I’ve never done before, so I really don’t know what to expect. I’m thinking it’s just going to seem like another Wimbledon, but we’ll see.”