Hewitt resurgence continues in Atlanta

Lleyton Hewitt’s summer rise up the rankings continued on Friday as he rebounded from losing a 17-minute first set to Ivan Dodig of Croatia and advanced to the semifinals of the BB&T Atlanta Open, a ATP World Tour 250 event.

The 1-6, 6-3, 6-0 win, means another showdown with John Isner on Saturday.  The pair met two weeks ago in the Newport semis with Hewitt winning.

Hewitt attributes his run this summer to his body feeling the best it has in a number of years. ”My body is holding up well, it hasn’t been a problem.  Even though it’s hot and humid here, the match was a fairly short three-set match.”

After dropping the first set, the two-time major champion converted on four of five break-point opportunities to win going away.

“At the start of the match, I couldn’t get it into it much,” admitted Hewitt. “But then I just wanted to stay in the games and hold serve. I played a good game at 4-3 to break and then I was able to get some cheap points.”

Another key to the victory for the Australian, Hewitt improved his 43 percent first serve percentage from his previous matches to 57% for the Dodig match.

In the second afternoon semifinal, top seed Isner defeated fellow American James Blake 7-6 (1), 7-6 (5) in 1 hour and 27 minutes, setting up a rematch with Hewitt and a match that many in Atlanta wanted to see once the draw came out.

“Coming to this tournament, it’s my fourth year, I always seem to have incredible support,” offered up Isner, the world No. 22.  “I do have some roots in this vicinity with going to school so close here, and given how many Bulldog alumni live in Atlanta.

The first set featured both players holding serve throughout and not one break point.  Nobody on the ATP World Tour has played more tiebreaks than Isner and he showed why his is so comfortable in breakers by being dominant on serve and then taking chances on the serve return. When he connects on serve returns in a tiebreak –where every point matters — Isner is just about unbeatable.

Blake jumped out to a quick break in the second set and looked in command until he played a sloppy service game at 4-2. As with any Isner match, it always comes down to a crucial point or two, and a tiebreak.

“His serve doesn’t give you any rhythm,” said Blake. “It comes down to a couple points every time I play him, and I didn’t play those well.”

Isner/Hewitt match-up

Isner with a 1-4 career mark against Hewitt said he’s looking forward to playing Hewitt, but he needs to serve well.

“His return of serve is incredible,” said Isner after the match. “He gets his racquet on the ball and he competes.”

Although his younger brother, Christian, has received most of the attention this week, Ryan Harrison was looking to garner some of his own as he took on Santiago Giraldo of Colombia in the first quarterfinal of the evening session.

Playing inspired tennis, Harrison scored the only break of the opening set and with that break in hand, the American leaned on his serve to close out a 6-3 first set.

The Colombian raised his level of play to start the second and Harrison threw in a sloppy service game early in the set to fall behind.  Harrison wouldn’t see a breakpoint in set two and one ball felt the wrath of the Louisiana native and landed out on the I75/I85 downtown connector in Atlanta, while Giraldo closed out the set 6-3.

Giraldo again jumped out on top in the deciding set, and Harrison squandered break points in games three and five.  A tiring Giraldo ended up giving back the break mid-set and with no further breaks, Harrison was dominant in the tiebreak, taking it 7-2, and the match 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(2).

All in all, Harrison was pleased with the effort and is happy to be making another final four appearance in Atlanta.

“I played well, other than that service game at 3-4 when I missed a couple balls, I guess I got broken,” explained Harrison. “The only dip I had, those three or four games and them when I broke in the third set. Other than that, I feel great.”

Next up for Harrison, a matchup with tournament No. 2 seed Kevin Anderson.  Anderson won a tight three-setter against Denis Istomin on Saturday night 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.

Even though Harrsion gives away six years, eight inches, and over 100 ranking spots to the South African, they both turned pro in 2007, and are both playing some of their best tennis of the year in Atlanta.

Amazingly enough, these two have never met in an ATP, Challenger, Futures or qualifying tournament.

The 4 p.m. match on Saturday featuring Hewitt and Isner will air on ESPN2 and the Anderson vs. Harrison semi will run at 8 p.m. on Tennis Channel.

BNP Paribas Open-Indian Wells Match of the Day: Nadal [regretfully] returns to hard courts and defeats Ryan Harrison

Nadal IW 11 MALT6807

Rafa says hard courts are too hard on the body.

INDIAN WELLS- Former Indian Wells champion Rafael Nadal, who has won just about every significant hard court title in the book, is no longer a fan of playing on softened concrete. On Saturday at Indian Wells, he won his first match on hard courts in nearly a year with a 7-6 (3), 6-2 victory over Ryan Harrison, who actually played as well as he has since Sydney. But nonetheless, Nadal won the big points, dictated when he had to and their were only a few moments when it looked like he might be in trouble. Harrison mixed up his attack nicely, and tried to make the net his best friend, but Nadal passes like a monster and unless Harrison hit outstanding approach shots, the Spaniard whizzed balls by him.

As Nadal said, he played well enough to win, which means getting ball in the center of the court and yanking his foe around until he can run no more. His depth was decent, his power was substantial, and perhaps most importantly , he didn’t think that much about his knees. There were those during the Latin America clay court swing who said that he wouldn’t play Indian Wells, that he would not attempt to play on hard courts, but they were wrong and he did and while he cannot be called a favorite in this tournament, that he was able to handily beat Harrison and not come off the court aching means he is likely is good to go for at least a few matches.

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Isner’s 2nd week prospects don’t look good.

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NOVAK DJOKOVIC VS. JUAN CARLOS FERRERO This match might be complicated for a while as Ferrero is skilled veteran who can still play well in patches, but Djokovic does everything a little better than he does and will come through in three sets, two of them which will be tight. This might be former NO. 1 JCF’s last Wimby so take glance while you still can.

MARIA SHARAPOVA VS. ANASTASIA RODIONOVA Who would have thought that after Victoria Azarenka thrashed her in the Aussie and Indian Wells finals that the Russian would begin to develop the look of a player that could stay at No.1 for a decent stretch? Rodionova is too inconsistent to stay with Sharapova and will fall quickly, and loudly, given her temper.

TOMAS BERDYCH VS. ERNESTS GULBIS The All England club did a good job of picking this match as the third one on Centre as if Gulbis pays well he can make this a tight and very entertaining contest. Let