JOHN ISNER WON his second straight Winston-Salem ATP title Saturday, surviving three match points en route to a 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (11/9) victory over second-seeded Tomas Berdych.
Isner, seeded third, successfully defended a title for the second time this season to go into the US Open starting Monday at Flushing Meadows on a roll.
The towering American, who also retained his title at Newport this year, fired 22 aces and also got a little bit of luck in the third-set decider as a forehand struck by Berdych hit the netcord and bounced high and wide to give Isner a second match point at 10/9.
Isner made the most of his opportunity, sealing the victory with a forehand winner after two hours and 26 minutes.
“It’s a great feeling. Both my titles this year are the exact same titles I won last year,” Isner said. “Defending a title is not easy. There’s pressure on you coming into the tournament so I think for me to do that, at both Newport and here in Winston-Salem, it should help me a lot going forward in the coming years. I’m absolutely thrilled.
“It was a very good match, an incredible atmosphere. It was a lot of fun to play out there,” added Isner. “There were certainly some tense times all throughout the match. At times probably wasn’t the prettiest of tennis, but I was able to gut it out and am very, very proud of that.”
Berdych, who had three chances to put away the match in the tiebreaker including one on his own serve at 6-5, looked stunned. After the players had shaken hands and returned to their chairs to pack up his frustration boiled over and he slammed his racquet to the ground.
“I won a couple of matches, which was the goal and the (reason) why I wanted to come here,” Berdych said. “I made it pretty successful, but still one I was missing.”
The Czech, a late wild card entry into the draw, had won three straight points to take a 5-3 lead in the tiebreaker, two of those points coming on errors by Isner. On his first match point, Berdych put a backhand volley into the net, and Isner saved another with a service winner for 7-7.
Berdych gave himself another chance with a service winner for 9-8, but Isner saved that one with an ace.
It wasn’t Isner’s first close call of the week in his home state. He needed three sets to get past Martin Klizan in the second round and a third-set tiebreaker to subdue top-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France in the semi-finals.
Berdych in contrast, had dropped just one set in reaching the final. Now he heads to Flushing Meadows seeking to make it past the round of 16 at the final Grand Slam of the season for the first time.
If he gets to the quarter-finals he could find Roger Federer waiting.