Isner gets biggest win of career at Aussie Open
John Isner, the giant from the University of Georgia, pulled off the greatest win of his career in the third round of the Australian Open here Friday when he defeated the 12th seeded Frenchman Gael Monfils 6-1, 4-6, 7-6, 7-6 in a dramatic battle on the Margaret Court Arena.
Inevitably, it was the 6-foot-9 American’s thunderous serve that kept him in the driving seat for much of the match, but he returned well, too, punishing the Monfils second serve and remaining steady at the backcourt when rallies developed.
The fourth set tiebreak was all locked up at 5-5 when Isner went for a big forehand, hitting it hard and deep in the Frenchman’s forehand corner and the reply only found the net. Presented with match point on his serve, Isner did not let his elbow stiffen and came up with yet another ace, wide to the backhand side to secure a memorable victory. So for the second consecutive Grand Slam, Isner has reached the fourth round -- a barrier he will break soon enough if he continues to play at this level.
Andy Roddick has had a few problems with umpires at the Australian Open this year, but today it was his opponent who gave him most trouble as Roddick sweated his way through 3 hours, 32 minutes to beat Spain’s Feliciano Lopez 6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 7-6.
“I thought that was the best he’s played against me for sure,” said Roddick afterwards. “I wanted to take chances with approaches on his backhand side but he was sticking passing shots pretty regularly. I was fighting my own intuition there. I actually ended up doing most of the damage going to his forehand. But, credit to him, he served big points really well.”
The muscular left-hander did a lot of things very well and, having been an opponent of the U.S. so often in Davis Cup, it came as no surprise to Roddick that he found himself in a dog fight after losing the first set. But, as Lopez himself said afterwards, Roddick prevailed because of his steadiness at the backcourt from where he made remarkably few errors.
But, on the hottest day of the tournament so far -- a cloudy, airless day that saw temperatures reach the 90's -- Roddick was made to battle for every game and looked askance at Jim Courier when, in their on court interview, the former two-time Australian Open champion suggested the match had been “comfortable.” The crowd stirred in dissent and the quick-witted Courier picked up on it.
“OK, I’ve been in the booth on another match and only saw the last tiebreak -- that looked comfortable,” Courier said. “But the crowd don’t seem to agree.”
“They’re right,” said Roddick, laughing. And it’s likely to be less than comfortable next time, too, when the American runs into the Chilean powerhouse Fernando Gonzalez who took almost exactly the same amount of time as Roddick to come through a see-saw five-setter against Evgeny Korolev of Kazakstan 6-7, 6-3, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Andy Murray, the No. 5 seed, made sure he got at least as far as he did here last year by sweeping past the Frenchman Florent Serra 7-5, 6-1, 6-4 to reach the fourth round. Despite losing a service break in the first set, Murray thrilled the packed crowd on Hisense Arena with some wonderful winners, including on a backhand in the final game that was played inches from the front row of seats and came curling back around the net post to land smack in the corner of Serra’s forehand court.