Isner wins second straight Winston-Salem title

John Isner admitted the Winston-Salem Open final wasn’t the best

tennis he’s played this season.

Still, the end result was just what Isner hoped for – another

momentum-building victory heading into the U.S. Open.

Isner won his second straight Winston-Salem title Saturday,

battling through a third-set tiebreaker to beat seventh-ranked

Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (11-9).

Isner had 22 aces, but needed to overcome his own mistakes for

his second win this season and fifth career title in the final

hard-court tournament before the U.S. Open.

”There were certainly some tense times all throughout the

match,” said Isner, who also won at Newport, R.I., last month.

”At times, it wasn’t the prettiest tennis, but I was able to gut

it out. I’m very, very proud of that.”

Berdych, playing in his third final this season, broke Isner’s

serve in winning the first set, and had three mini-breaks in the

tiebreaker, the last giving him match point at 6-5.

But Isner broke Berdych on the next point to tie the score, and

later went on to win the last three points.

”It was a point that I’m going to see for quite a long time,”

said Berdych, who is seeded sixth at the U.S. Open and will play

Winston-Salem quarterfinalist David Goffin of Belgium in the first


”I hope there’s going to be enough time to put this out of my

mind, but remember all the matches before it, which were pretty

good for me.”

However, Isner had some lucky breaks.

Tied 9-9, Isner barely returned a hard crosscourt backhand, and

was left out of position as Berdych approached the net. But

Berdych’s forehand hit the net cord and bounced out of bounds,

giving Isner match point.

”I was prepared to all-out dive if that ball had made it over

the net,” Isner said.

On match point, Isner had to chase down a hard forehand and

backhand from Berdych, putting both returns on the line. Isner then

ripped his own hard forehand down the line to win the tiebreaker

and the match.

”I just scrapped it out,” Isner said. ”It wasn’t pretty, but

he made a mistake at the end on a ball that he normally makes.

”I know I’m fortunate to have won this match. It could’ve

easily gone the other way.”

The 6-foot-9 Isner, one of the tour’s most-powerful servers, had

only three aces in the first set, while adding a double fault and

16 unforced errors. That allowed Berdych to break Isner’s serve in

the fifth game en route to winning the set.

However, Isner’s serve and game improved in the second set. He

had nine aces and pulled off a service break on Berdych in the

opening game of the set.

”I was out of sorts,” Isner said. ”It was kind of a blustery

day, and that caught me off guard a little. It was hard to get on

top of the ball. I couldn’t quite go for my shots. But that game

(the first game of the second set) kind of got me going. I knew

then that it was anybody’s match.”

Isner improved to 10-0 at Winston-Salem and continued his strong

summer on hard courts. In addition to his wins at Newport and

Winston-Salem, he made it to the quarterfinals at the London

Olympics and the semifinals at last week’s event in Cincinnati.

Now, Isner – the highest-seeded American (ninth) in the U.S.

Open – gets a few days off before his first-round match against

Xavier Malisse of Belgium on Wednesday.

”I’m going in feeling pretty good about myself,” Isner said.

”Everything I do for the next three days is going to be geared

toward that first-round match.”