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Isner flying the flag in Indian Wells

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Originally published on: 16/03/12 10:22

Not since Andre Agassi got the better of Pete Sampras in 2001 has Indian Wells celebrated a homegrown champion, but John Isner moved to within two wins of achieving that feat after beating Gilles Simon in the Californian desert.

Of course, you wouldn’t put the 6’9” Tampa native in the same bracket as the eight-time Grand Slam champ – nor might you rate his chances against semi-final opponent Novak Djokovic – but the world No.11 is undisputedly improving his standing in the game.

Saturday’s semi-final will be his second at Masters 1000 level, having reached the last four in Paris last November, but the 6-3 1-6 7-5 defeat of Gilles Simon that secured him the berth wasn’t exactly pretty.

Aiming to assert himself against a gritty opponent in Simon, there were plenty of big, powerful forehands but for all those that found the court, there seemed to be just as many that didn’t. By the end of the match Isner had struck over 50 unforced errors, even if he did ultimately come up with the goods at the end.

“My coach said it wasn’t a Picasso out there, but I found a way to get it done,” said the 26-year-old American, who is aware he will have to be much, much better if he is to bypass Novak Djokovic to reach the biggest final of his career.

“To beat that guy, you have to be on top of your game no matter who you are. The same goes for me,” said Isner. “I’m going to have to obviously serve well and take my chances after that. It’s going be one of the toughest matches I’ll ever play, because he’s No. 1 in the world. I have a day to kind of sit on it. I have doubles tomorrow. But hopefully I’ll come out on Saturday and put together a good match and take it to him as best I can.”

Isner has lost to the world No.1 in each of their previous two meetings, both in 2010. Though he fell to Djokovic in straight sets in the semi-finals in Beijing that year, he had given the Serb a real run for his money while on Davis Cup duty earlier in the season, taking him to five sets on the Belgrade clay.

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