It had been a magnificent run for John Isner--five victories over the likes of
Henman, Haas, and Monfils, who had just beaten Safin in straight sets. All
five wins had been three-setters, all decided in tiebreakers. The 22-year-old
had shown extremely strong serving talent, and his net work--in volleying,
hitting overheads, and especially his court sense in moving forward aggressively and
often--were impressive in this era of baseline play. His mental strengths had
been evident from the week's outset-- a calmness and self-confidence that
bespoke a large future in the professional game.
Andy Roddick was well prepared for the confrontation, now fully warned of
Isner's strengths and by no means inclined to take the match lightly. Further
preparation arose from Andy's semi-final match against Ivo Karlovic, whose 6-10
height and excellent strengths in serving and at net almost identically
mirrored those of Isner. Further, although Andy was not entirely fresh, his road to
the Sunday final had been much easier than John's. There had been a first-round
bye and then much shorter matches than John's. (John had also played a tough
doubles match.) Further, most of Andy's play had been under the lights, away
from the brutal midsummer sun. His only daytime match had been the day before,
Saturday, but that scheduling too had been to Andy's advantage, as it gave him
more rest directly before the final than John, who played to near-exhaustion
Saturday night. John admitted to tiredness on taking the court Sunday.
Matters began encouragingly for Isner, who for several games picked up right
where he had been all week. If the aces were a bit less forthcoming than
before, the fine net attacking seen at the end against Monfils on Saturday night
was sharper than ever. In Andy's second serving game, Andy slipped behind by a
break point, and for a moment it seemed the impossible might indeed be
unfolding. But Andy at once righted himself behind his own superb serving weapon.
Minor trouble quickly ensued for John when he double-faulted to reach 30-all in
the next game, but an ace overcame the moment. But two games later, John again
serving, the newcomer contributed two quick volleying errors, then an errant
forehand, and finally another error at net--a lost serving game at love. Roddick
then closed out the set firmly, losing only one point in his last three
Isner seemed tired--nothing new there--but he played with resiliency
throughout the second set as both players held serves to reach tiebreak. Andy's
forehand remained strong and reliable, keeping Isner on the move in rallies and
helping collect the victory in the tiebreaker.
Roddick next travels to Montreal for the Masters Series tournament there next
week. Isner has accepted a wild-card invitation to play the following week at
the Masters in Cincinnati. His arrival on the pro scene adds an intriguing
dimension to pro tennis, especially in the U.S.