Third seeded John Isner and his big serve defeated top seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to advance to the Finals of the Winston-Salem Open, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(3).
In what was the best match of the tournament, two of the best players in the World battled it out in front of an enthusiastic crowd that resembled the night sessions at the U.S. Open at times. Isner, from nearby Greensboro drew cheers and screams from the crowd as play tightened. Tsonga, whose personality is infectious, had his share of supporters but it clearly was a hometown crowd for Isner.
Isner set the tone early with his booming serve, tossing in 10 aces in the first set and mixed in solid ground strokes to compliment his biggest weapon. Tsonga, who has many weapons scrapped but Isner was able to break to go up 3-2. His serve dictated play the rest of the set as he served it out to win 6-4.
In the second it appeared Isner's serve would once again carry him, but Tsonga found one chink in it breaking him at 5-3 after Isner had a break opportunity himself that Tsonga was able to fight off. Tsonga served the second set out to even the match.
The third set raised the play and the intensity of both players. Isner had 3 break points early, but it was Tsonga with 2 huge forehand winners that saved him in his service game. A frustrated Isner slammed the ball in the net knowing an opportunity had slipped away. Later, with the crowd roaring, Isner had two match point opportunities on Tsonga's serve but could not break through as the two Top 10 players headed to a decisive tiebreaker.
In the tiebreak, it was once again Isner's serve that came up big as he found himself with 4 match points. This time Tsonga could not hold the American off and Isner took the match. It is the third time out of 4 tries that Isner has defeated Tsonga who had praise for the tournament after the match, "It was a good experience for me, I enjoyed the tournament. The facilities are great. I got good practice here and the conditions are quite the same as the US Open, so it was good for me to be here this week."
Certainly the crowd got it's money's worth as one spectator yelled, "Let's go both of you, I love it."
Isner served up 24 aces in the match and for the second straight year will be in the Finals. "I’m very, very happy to be back in the finals. I said this last year, I don’t like getting to Grand Slams early. If I’m playing the week before, I want to do as well as I can. So I’ve made it as far as I can make it, I’m playing in the final match. So I’m very, very satisfied with that and I’m looking to defend my title. I did it at Newport, so maybe I can pull this off again." Isner said.
He will defend his Title against Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic on Saturday.