A ‘Giant’ of a Final in Atlanta

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Kevin Anderson looks to keep John Isner from getting an Atlanta title. Photo: Tom Grason/BB&T Atlanta Open

History will be made in Atlanta on Sunday as the tallest ATP Tour final in history will take place when 6’9″ John Isner meets a familiar foe in 6’8″ Kevin Anderson.

Expect big serves, huge forehands and maybe a tiebreaker or two by these two players who first met in the fall of 2005 as college players at the University of Georgia (Isner) and the University of Illinois (Anderson).

In Saturday’s first semifinal, two players that know each well, and played each other in a semifinal match just two weeks ago at Newport, in tournament top seed John Isner and Lleyton Hewitt took to the court under overcast skies in Atlanta at the 2013 BB&T Atlanta Open.

Hewitt led the career head-to-head with Isner 4-1 coming into the match, with that including a win in that Newport encounter. Isner is a two-time finalist at the BB&T Atlanta and always appears confident and enjoys tremendous support when he plays in Atlanta.

The previous two meetings between these two both went three sets and this one was no exception as Isner squeaked out a 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (5) win and a trip to Sunday’s final.

There was nary a service break to be found until the 10th and final game of the opening set when Isner played perhaps his best service game of the entire tournament to break and secure the set. Isner tallied 10 aces in the first set, served 68% and didn’t face a break point.

The second set looked like more of the same until Hewitt amped up his weaponry and put more returns in play forcing the American to make three straight unforced errors in the fifth game. Isner then broke back to 3-3 before he played more loose points and fell down the break that would ultimately decide the set.

The third set was all about living dangerously as Hewitt faced a break point early on and then Isner fell behind love-40 in the seventh game of the set and faced another break point in the ninth game- saving them all.

As with many Isner matches, this came down to a tiebreaker and with Isner carrying a 23-6 record in tiebreakers into this decider, Isner said he was feeling confident.

“I would prefer not to be (in tiebreakers) like I was in the first set,” admitted Isner. “When the situation comes down to it, I’m not going to shy away from it.”

Isner was also happy with the way he hit his forehand.

“I thought I played very well. I would go for my shots more and my forehand was there today.”

Hewitt, who has not played in an ATP World Tour since Las Vegas in 2007, will now move into the top-60 in the ATP World Tour rankings on Monday morning.

Isner will be seeking his seventh ATP title on Sunday.

An intriguing semifinal between Ryan Harrison and Kevin Anderson was on next. Harrison was looking to continue what has been a great week for the Harrison family in Atlanta and Anderson was looking not only for a title, but a move into the top-20 of the ATP World Tour rankings.

Anderson has been one of the most consistent players on tour this year and that showed in the first set as he waited patiently for his opportunity to break in the eighth game and then closed out the set with his fifth ace of the match.

A well played second set included zero service breaks, so that meant a tiebreaker.  Anderson took control at 3-2 in the breaker with a passing shot and an overhead smash that gave him mini breaks and then the match 6-3, 7-6 (3).

Isner leads the head-to-head with Anderson 5-3, and has taken the last two meetings, but every match but one has featured at least one tiebreaker and last year in Shanghai they played three breakers.  Anderson said that will be in the back of his mind, but he’s mainly focused on what he needs to do.

“I think for tomorrow, it’s important for me to take care of my service games and be patient,” offered up Anderson.

Anderson has taken notice that his, and Isner’s careers have paralleled and criss-crossed each others since their college days, and he’s noticed what John has accomplished.

“I feel since we turned pro at the same time and had been ranked similarly, the top-10 is a place where I can be,” said Anderson.

In doubles semifinal action, the pair of Edouard Roger-Vasselin and Igor Sijsling defeated the Israeli team of Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram 3-6, 6-1, 10-7 while the British duo of Colin Fleming and Jonathan Marray took down Chris Guccione and Lleyton Hewitt 6-4, 7-6 (6).

ESPN2 will cover the men’s singles final live at 3 p.m. Eastern time.

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