In what turned out to be a thrilling three setter decided by a tiebreak, John Isner defended his Winston-Salem Open Title 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(9) against 7th ranked Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic.
The Greensboro native had to fight off three match points in the tiebreaker and needed a little luck but gutted out the victory. "You know, at times it probably wasn’t the prettiest, but I was able to gut it out and I’m very, very proud of that." Isner said.
The match didn't start out smooth for Isner. With gusty wind conditions, his big serve was not as dominating early as Berdych was able to get into points and beat the American with his ground strokes. Berdych broke Isner at 3-2 after a double fault and an unforced error. Berdych was able to move Isner around the court with crisp strokes and solid volleys and continued to handle his serve taking the set 6-3. Isner had just 3 aces in the first set and 14 unforced errors.
In the second set, Isner seemed to get a better handle on the wind and his dominating serve reappeared. After breaking Berdych at 1-0, he held serve without too much difficulty and served out the second set 6-4, helped by a number of aces.
In the third it was the American again firing huge serves one after another, holding serve early. Berdych was effective as well as neither player could make in roads against their opponent on their serve. With the score at 5-5, Isner held a 15-30 advantage. With the crowd urging him on, he battled Berdych for the break in a long game. But, despite Berdych's struggles with the ball toss in the wind, he held off Isner and held serve going up 6-5. Isner served out and the match went to a deciding third set tiebreaker.
With huge applause by the crowd, Isner took the first mini-break on a sharp volley and after his serves held a 2-1 advantage. The two players fought until an unforced error gave Berdych match point at 6-5. Then during a solid point by both players, Berdych had a backhand volley at the net that would have given him the Championship. The ball failed to clear the net. "It was a point which I’m going to see for a long time. I try to forget it as fast as possible, so there’s not much to say."Berdych said afterwards.
Berdych would see two more match points but Isner held him off, assisted by his serve. He would win the last three points and win the tiebreak, and the Championship.
"I’m just absolutely thrilled. It was a very good match. It was an incredible atmosphere to play in out there. There were certainly some tense times all throughout the match" Said Isner. "I’m heading into New York full of confidence." He continued.
Berdych spoke kindly of the event in which he was a last minute wild card, "I was really happy to be here", he said. " I won some matches and that was the goal when I come here, so I was pretty successful."
Both players should go into the U.S. Open with confidence as both performed well at this tournament. But for John Isner, it was another successful homecoming where he was now won 2 of his five career Championships. He is playing perhaps the best tennis of his career right now. He will be one to keep an eye on in the next couple of weeks.