John Isner did it again. It seems at least once a year, often more, Isner makes some serious noise in a serious way. Today, just 24 hours after orchestrating his first ever career comeback from two sets, the 28-year-old had his marathon mojo working once again.
With his opponent Tommy Haas up two sets and in full control, a tiring Isner scraped out a break to take the third. In a nip-and-tuck fourth, Isner hung it to force what would become an historic tiebreak during which the German had not one, not two not three, not eight, not even ten but TWELVE match points. That’s right, TWELVE! And Tommy lost them all!
I seem to recall at least 10 on Isner’s serve on which he did his usual blast-a-service-winner response. A frustrated Haas kept getting to matchpoint, often with a sparkling passing shot via his backhand side. But on those matchpoints, Isner’s serve kept getting him out of trouble and eventually Haas cracked handing Isner the breaker 12-10.
Somehow, the exhausted Isner broke a dispirited Haas in his first serve game of the final set. But Isner, running on empty and cramping, couldn’t hold it very long. Haas broke back at 42 then at 8-8 broke again and serve it out on his 13th matchpoint.
After 4 hours, 37 minutes, Haas could finally breathe a sigh of relief. And so could we – heck, with Isner the match could still be going!
“It’s obviously a great match to be a part of, especially at such a big event against somebody that is very used to those kinds of matches,” said Haas. “Unfortunately one has to lose, and I think it would have been more upsetting for me in this case, after having many chances in the fourth set there.
“But it’s crazy. It was a big roller coaster with not many thoughts in between. He had match point at 4-5, and somehow I saved that one. It went back and forth. It’s definitely going to be one of the best matches to look back on, for sure.”
Good thing Tommy won that. Had he lost it definitely would not have been one of the best matches for him to look back on. In fact, he might have quite the sport.
As for Isner, it’s business as usual. Because of his serve and his inability to break serve, we’ll keep seeing more of these type of matches and the records fall. It’s that simple.
“I like to compete. And especially when you’re playing in a Grand Slam, you want to go out competing. That’s what I try to do,” said Isner. “These long matches seem to follow me. I mean, I had one yesterday. I had one today. I’m sure I’ll have some in the future.
“It’s not that rare to go five sets. It’s just a part of Grand Slams. It’s tough, and I haven’t won the majority of them. But, all in all, it’s fun to compete in them.”
Haas moves on to face Mikhail Youzhny Monday in the round of 16.
In other matches – and there were other matches – Novak Djokovic absolutely destroyed Grigor Dimitrov. What a difference a few weeks makes when Dimitrov shocked Djokovic in Madrid. Today, quite the opposite with the Serb dominating 6-2, 6-2, 6-3. Djokovic didn’t speak to the press afterward because of the passing of his former coach Jelena Gencic.
While Novak cruised, Nadal continued to struggle. As I’ve said, Rafa may have won six of eight events this year, but he still doesn’t look right to me, anyway. And today, after losing the opening sets to Daniel Brands and Martin Klizan, even unheralded Fabio Fognini was pushing him around early on.
Nadal won in straights 7-6, 6-4, 6-4 but it was even tougher than that. The Italian served for the first set, broke back in the second and even put up a fight in the third.
“I have to play better. If I want to have any chance, I really need to play better,” admitted Nadal. “But it is always the same story. When you win without playing your best, you have the chance to play better. If you don’t fight when you have tough days or negative days, then you don’t have all the chances for the future.
“So it’s important to stay humble these kind of days, stay with the right mentality, be positive, and accept in every moment all the difficulties that comes and try to win.”
Added Fognini, “I think I was really aggressive,” said Fognini. “Everything was working: Serve, forehand, backhand, especially crosscourt. I played a great match with a really great player. What I have to say? Maybe first or second set, especially first, because I was 6-5 and serving, I had a chance to close the set. But one set to love was not enough.”
Nadal will need to play a whole lot better if he’s to beat Djokovic come Friday. Right now I’m starting to feel Novak wins that match if it happens.
Next for Rafa on Monday is the improving Kei Nishikori, who was an impressive four set winner today over the volatile Benoit Paire.
Stan Wawrinka and Richard Gasuqet, who hasn’t lost a set yet, were also winners.
As for tomorrow’s start of the fourth round, Roger Federer should be able to handle Gilles Simon. Federer slammed Simon last month in Rome and while I expect a much tighter match Sunday, I think Federer will get through. He’s in a good, aggressive zone right now. Simon can’t hurt you as much on clay, so if Roger’s on he’ll advance.
I also like JW Tsonga over Troicki, David Ferrer to diffuse Kevin Anderson’s power game and in a close one I think Nicolas Almagro edges a fatigued Tommy Robredo.
In the women’s draw, it’s still Serena’s tournament – she’s lost just six games so far – but her final opponent remains unclear. Maria Sharapova is the second favorite but as we saw today she’s starting to wobble a bit. The Americans are coming strong with Jamie Hampton, Sloane Stephens and the resurgent Bethanie Mattek-Sands who’s into her second career Slams sweet 16, but it’s hard to say who’ll Serena will beat in the final.
Tennis Channel has coverage early followed by NBC later in the day.
SUNDAY FRENCH OPEN SCHEDULE
Court Philippe Chatrier 11:00 AM Start Time
Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) v. Angelique Kerber (GER)
Serena Williams (USA) v. Roberta Vinci (ITA)
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) v. Viktor Troicki (SRB)
Gilles Simon (FRA) v. Roger Federer (SUI)
Court Suzanne Lenglen 11:00 AM Start Time
Kevin Anderson (RSA) v. David Ferrer (ESP)
Tommy Robredo (ESP) v. Nicolas Almagro (ESP)
Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP) v. Sara Errani (ITA)
Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) v. Ana Ivanovic (SRB)
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