American John Isner came back from a set down to defeat Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro to advance to the finals of the Southern and Western Open tennis tournament in Cincinnati, Ohio Saturday afternoon.
“I am truly ecstatic,” Isner toldf ESPN after earning his first berth in a final at Cincinnati.
“I knew I was playing well coming into this event I knew I was going to have a good shot to do well but I didn‘t know I was going to do this well.”
It was a match of the giants as the 6’6” Del Potro faces one of the few players he didn’t tower over in the 6’9’ Isner. Both players move well enough, but with their gigantic wingspans, could cover the sidelines comfortably. The match hung on Del Potro’s better precision from the baseline versus Isner’s huge serve and slick volleying.
The decisive factor proved to be attitude. Del Potro nearly had the match won, serving for the match at 5-3 in the second set, having just won the match’s first service break. The seventh-ranked Argentine then choked, giving away the game and the service break with errors and a double-fault.
Del Potro pushed Isner hard in the next game, but couldn’t get the break back—after two unforced errors the 21-ranked American came back with a winning volley and a 144-mph serve.
Isner didn’t really raise his game after that—instead Del Potro just seemed dispirited, almost uninterested. He didn’t just quit—he made Isner fight hard to win the second-set tie-breaker. But Del Potro never seemed to have the aggressive edge which won him the first set tie-breaker and carried him to match point in the second.
Isner explained how he felt when fighting back from match point: “I just told myself to keep on fighting.
“I was playing well today; he was beating me at that time but I knew the match wasn’t over. I played a fantastic point to get the match back on serve and won a tight tie breaker and went on from there.”
Isner played solid tennis start to finish. In the first set-and-a-half, he fell behind Del Potro by losing baseline points, then fought back with big serves and great play at the net, but made too many errors.
In the last half of the match, Isner was perhaps a little lifted by the crowd, but mostly played the same. The difference was that Del Potro made more errors, more half-heated attacks, and wasn’t able to take advantage of Isner errors.
Isner will face the winner of the late afternoon contest between Rafa Nadal and Thomas Berdych.
Isner thanked the American fans for energizing him. “The crowed had been a factor for me all week actually—it was a factor for me yesterday, and you guys were absolutely fantastic for me again today. I cannot thank you enough.
“I can’t wait to be out here tomorrow. I’m into the final and I hope you guys will pack the stadium and cheer me on again.”
The big American must feel good about his chances going into the finals. Having showed his skill and mental toughness by beating Novak Djokovvic in the quarter-finals, and then proving both again against Del Potro, Isner—who will move into the top 20 ranking on Monday—has a chance to beat anyone he faces.