Fish Wilts Isner for Second Atlanta Championship

by John on July 24, 2011

Defending champion and top seed Mardy Fish saved two match points this afternoon to defeat tiring American John Isner 3-6, 7-6 (6), 6-2 in the final of the Atlanta Tennis Championships, the first stop on the U.S. hardcourt swing leading up to the U.S. Open. The title was the sixth of No. 9-ranked Fish’s career and his first since last year’s Atlanta event, when he also victimized Isner in three sets in the championship match. Fish, handling the heat and humidity much better than Isner, improved to 25-13 on the year and 3-1 lifetime against his 6-foot-9 fellow American. Isner was going for his second straight title, having won the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships two weeks ago in Newport, R.I. The third-seeded Isner jumped out in front in the fourth game of the opener, breaking Fish’s serve for a 3-1 lead, and then served out the set, closing with two aces. Isner kept the momentum going, breaking Fish in the first game of the second set. It was then that the big guy started to sag a bit. Isner dropped serve, double faulting on break point, and Fish held at love for 2-1. With his energy waning, Isner tried to keep the points short and not go for anything out of reach. The next nine games proceded on serve to force a tiebreaker. Perhaps feeling the need to win in straight sets, Isner raced to a 5-1 lead and served for the match at 6-4. But Fish, holding firm, strung together four straight points to even things at a set apiece. “When you’re in that position, it’s almost over,” Fish said afterwards. “I was lucky to get out of it. I stuck some returns and put some balls in play. I played some good points from then on.” Isner knew he had his chances. “In hindsight, I should have served and volleyed on the second serve. He got it in play and I went for too big of a backhand and missed it by a lot. He played the point well and the next two points, he served two really good serves.” Fish consolidated the momentum, breaking Isner’s serve and holding at love to lead 2-0 in the third set. A double fault by Isner gave Fish an insurance break in the seventh game and he finished things off by holding at love. Fish supplanted Andy Roddick as the top-ranked American in early April. “I want to stay in the Top 10 for as long as I can and keep bettering my career high ranking and do things I’ve never done before,” Fish said. “Today is one of them as I had never defended a title before, so it’s another milestone for me.”

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