MASON, Ohio — John Isner followed up his big win over No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals of the Western & Southern Open with his third-straight top 10 win in three days, coming back from a set down to defeat seventh-ranked Juan Martin del Potro 6-7 (5), 7-6 (9), 6-3 to advance to his second career ATP Masters 1000 final.
Isner hung tough with Del Potro through a set and a half but he found himself a set and a break down with Del Potro serving for the match at 5-3 in the second set with match point at 40-30. Serving into the sun, Del Potro double-faulted on match point to let Isner back into the game and the American eventually broke with a perfect backhand down the line to earn the break back and get on serve. The Argentine couldn’t shake off the disappointment, and Isner roared back to take the win the tiebreak, 11-9, and run away with the third set to make his third ATP final in four weeks.
“I had my chance to beat him in the second,” Del Potro said. Two weeks ago, the two faced off in the final of the Citi Open where Del Potro won, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2. “Serving for the match, I made too many errors for these kind of matches. And then in the end, he was fighting all the time. I think he deserves to win in the third set, but I missed my chance in the second set, and I’m very disappointed for that.”
On a day in which every facet of his game seemed to be clicking, Isner played the role of aggressor throughout the match. He fired 23 aces, hit 63 winners to 49 unforced errors, and won 21 of 34 points at the net. Del Potro, who said earlier this week he was feeling some pain in his wrist, couldn’t get his high-octane game to fire on the quick Cincinnati courts. He hit just 10 aces on the afternoon to nine double-faults, with 39 winners to 27 unforced errors. Still, he put himself in a position to win and the double-fault on match point left him mystified.
“If I did [a] double fault in the beginning of the match or in the third set, it wouldn’t matter,” Del Potro said. “But serving for the match and I made double fault, it was the worst moment of the match to do it, and I did today, like a very young player in that moment, and he take the chance to come back in the match.”
In a week in which the American men were plagued with questions about the dire state of U.S. men’s tennis, Isner’s run will put him back into the top 20 next week. On Sunday, he will try to become the first American to win Cincinnati since Andy Roddick in 2006. To do so, he’ll need to beat his fourth top 10 player in four days, as he’ll face either No. 3 Rafael Nadal or No. 6 Tomas Berdych. With his game coming together at just the right time, Isner is looking forward to the challenge.
“To be able to get to this stage, you’ve got to beat a lot of good players,” he said, “and you have to have a lot of things go your way, which I have this week. I’ve caught a few breaks here and there. I’ll take it and see what I can do tomorrow.