John Isner is having a tremendous summer on the hard courts and looks to take that to another level when he squares off against Rafael Nadal in Cincinnati today.
The American has a chance to dramatically improve his ranking and potential seeding for the U.S. Open with a win today and success at a tournament he has owned in Winston-Salem. However, to accomplish this, he will have to change his trend against the Spaniard.
Isner has never defeated Nadal. The pair have only played 3 times but Nadal has won all three. Two of those matches were on clay, a surface that Nadal dominates and ironically, Isner pushed the World Number 3 to five sets in a 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 6-2, 6-4 loss in Roland Garros in 2011.
The only hard court matchup between the two was in Indian Wells in 2010 where Nadal won in three sets.
For success today, Isner must serve extremely well. He will be at a disadvantage from the baseline and it will be interesting to see how well Nadal's very solid return of service matches up against the Man with the biggest serve in the game.
Nadal struggled some on his own serve in Saturday's semifinal, opening the door several times for Tomas Berdych. This will be a key against Isner, as well. There will most likely not be a lot of opportunities for Isner on the Nadal serve if he serves well.
One advantage the Greensboro native generally owns is his record in tiebreaks. Despite dropping several in a row earlier in the summer, Isner came into the month of August winning around 70 percent of the tiebreakers he played in the prior 12 months and as of early August had won 28 of 39 tiebreaks played in 2013.
The American has already won in Atlanta and has now reached the Finals in Washington and Cincinnati. With his home tournament starting this week, he looks to go into New York riding huge momentum.
For Nadal, a win continues his big comeback following time off due to injury. He has his eye on accruing points to catapult him towards the top of the rankings. A win at the Western and Southern Open would be a big step towards chasing down Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic.