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Isner conquers Muller in mini epic

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Originally published on: 22/07/10 10:44

You could be forgiven for wondering if John Isner and Nicolas Mahut will ever have an ‘easy’ match again. Perhaps they’ve decided that – after taking part in the marathon of all marathons – all their matches henceforth should be nothing short of a battle to the death.

Frenchman Mahut was forced to contend with the soaring 90-degree heat in Newport two weeks ago but found a way to beat Alejandro Falla in three sets because “nothing is worse than what I did in Wimbledon.”

One month on, and in his first match since their 183-game epic, John Isner took centre stage in another thriller, this time against Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller at the Atlanta Tennis Championships in Georgia.

Isner saved match points in the second and third sets to battle through to a three set victory and lead a procession of Americans – including Mardy Fish, Michael Russell and Taylor Dent – into the quarter-finals.

Thankfully for the 6ft9 Florida native, as with all ATP World tour matches, a tie-break decides the final set and Isner was able to polish things off in a mere two hours and 33 minutes for a 4-6 7-6(6) 7-6(7) victory. But it didn’t make for pretty viewing, confesses the 25-year-old.

“The match was pretty ugly to be honest, but I was proud how I competed and the crowd helped in that regard,” said the tournament second seed, who is a fan-favourite in Atlanta having competed for the University of Georgia between 2004 and 2007.

“I didn’t want to let [the fans] down. I didn’t want to lose my first match here. Also, I had a lot of friends and family here, so I didn’t want to go out early.”

After taking a well-deserved rest following Wimbledon, Isner conceded to feeling a little rusty against the 27-year-old qualifier, but admits he needs a few more matches under his belt if he is to contend for the US Open series ahead of the final slam of the year.

“I felt I was shedding the rust off in the second and third sets,” he said. “I will only keep getting better. As a tennis player you need a lot of matches to play your best. This was one of the biggest wins of the year. I wanted to get matches under my belt before D.C. and the two Masters 1000s.”

Following his challenge to emulate the 2009 US Open Series triumph of close friend and Davis Cup teammate Sam Querrey, the world No.19 will head to Flushing Meadows aiming to better the fourth-round best he managed in New York last year after beating fellow gargantuan-server Andy Roddick in round three. 

He beat his countryman over five sets back then, but Isner has since given a whole new meaning to the word ‘epic’. Happily for Isner and his upcoming hopes of a decent Grand Slam run, those sensible yanks play a tiebreak to decide the final set…

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