Top seed Isner reaches Newport final
NEWPORT, RI (AP)
John Isner feels comfortable being back in the United States.
He's showing it by dominating his opponents.
Top seed and defending champ Isner advanced to the final at the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships by beating fellow American Ryan Harrison 7-6 (4), 6-3 on Saturday afternoon.
Isner, ranked 11th, will face Australia's Lleyton Hewitt in the title match Sunday. Hewitt, a former world No. 1, defeated American Rajeev Ram 6-4, 5-7, 6-2.
The matches were held after Jennifer Capriati and four others were enshrined into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
Isner is looking to become the first repeat champion on Newport's grass courts since France's Fabrice Santoro in 2008.
Joining Capriati in a 90-minute on-court ceremony were recently retired player Gustavo Kuerten, master player Manuel Orantes, tennis industry executive Mike Davies and wheelchair champion Randy Snow, who was honored posthumously.
Isner took control by winning the first set tiebreak, improving his record to an ATP-best mark of 24-10 in tiebreaks this year.
Similar to last year, he's used his overpowering serve to take charge in matches. So far this week, he's held serve in 46-of-47 chances.
"It's feeling very similar actually, eerily similar," he said. "Last year I wasn't playing well and I came here and I desperately needed wins and confidence. This year I'm ranked a lot higher (than last year) but I didn't play well in Europe — simple as that."
He realizes his play improves with his return to America.
"I'm always most comfortable in the States. That's something I need to work on. I really want to do well here," said Isner, looking for his fourth ATP tour title. "I've been focused since the first day I practiced."
He wrapped up the match with a forehand winner down the line.
Hewitt, coming off five surgeries in four years, entered the week ranked 233rd and was looking to accumulate matches in his comeback bid before he represents Australia for the London Olympics.
"It's about getting wins and putting yourself in position," said Hewitt, looking for his 29th career ATP title. "I think more than anything it's about self-belief and self-confidence.
"You doubt yourself a little bit more when you're coming back from surgery. You can't just click your fingers and start moving and playing the way you want to play. That's sometimes frustrating."
Hewitt, a wild card, broke in the third game of the final set to go up 2-1 when he hit a well-placed backhand cross on Ram's second serve. He then held in the fourth game, before breaking again in the fifth, and holding in the sixth to take a commanding lead.
On the final point, Ram hit a forehand service return into the net, closing the match in 2 hours, 20 minutes.
Ram said it was special to face a two-time Grand Slam champion.
"I hope I'm still playing when he gets inducted into the Hall of Fame because that's going to happen someday," Ram said.
Hewitt captured the 2001 US Open and 2002 Wimbledon.
Hewitt had trailed 4-1 in the opening set before winning the final five games. Tied 4-all and holding a break advantage in the ninth game, he hit a perfectly placed backhand down the line to go up 5-4.
He then closed out the set at love.
In the second set, Ram opened a 5-2 lead. After Hewitt held serve, Ram faulted on seven of eight serves in the ninth game, including the final two points to see his lead sliced to 5-4.
"I had a really tough day serving," Ram said. "That was a big part of the problem."