Reported by the Atlanta Journal
Andy Roddick will face John Isner in a semifinal worthy of a final in the BB&T Atlanta Open at Atlantic Station.
But it may have a hard time topping Friday’s nightcap between the top-seeded Isner and19-year-old Jack Sock, eight years his junior and playing in his first ATP quarterfinal.
Isner and Sock engaged in a slugfest of big serves, delicate drop shots, lost-in-the-lights lobs, unforced errors and surprising rallies that Isner won 7-6 (7), 6-4, after a rain delay of 1 hour, 4 minutes. The match ended at 12:41 a.m.
The Isner-Roddick semifinal is scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday. Because of the late start and the delay, Isner said he might be at a disadvantage against Roddick, who has won nine of his past 10 matches. Isner has won seven consecutive.
“It’s going to be obviously tough,” Isner said. “He’s playing very well. We both don’t want to lose, that’s for sure. It’s going to be a very tough match.”
The other semifinal will feature Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller against Japan’s Go Soeda at 1 p.m. The championship will be played at 3 p.m. Sunday.
Roddick, the No. 4 seed, overpowered 34-year-old Michael Russell 6-3, 6-4 with 12 aces earlier in the day.
Isner broke Sock’s first serve to go ahead 2-0 in the first set. Both players held serve until Sock came back from the rain delay and broke Isner to cut his lead to 4-3. He followed with his serve to tie the first set, 4-4. Isner bounced back to win the next game and take a 5-4 lead. Both players held serve and Isner led 40-15 on Sock’s serve with a chance to take the set, only to see Sock rally through five deuces to tie it 6-6.
Sock rode that momentum to take a 3-1 lead in the tiebreaker, but consecutive double-faults allowed Isner to run off five points and take a 6-3 lead. Sock wasn’t done. He reeled off three points, the last a down-the-line winner, to tie the tiebreaker at 6. Isner hit an overhead smash to go ahead 7-6, but Sock hammered a forehand into the corner to tie it at 7. An unforced error gave Isner an 8-7 lead and the serve. He finished it with an ace to win the first set 7-6 (7) on his ninth set point.
Though Isner was winning, his body language didn’t seem positive between points, hanging his head as he dried off with a towel. Sock seemed more fresh, bouncing around with his backward red baseball cap.
“I was a little bit frustrated,” Isner said. “I wasn’t really happy with how I ended that first set, even though I won it.”
Tied 4-4, Isner broke Sock to take a 5-4 lead and hammered out four points to take the second set and the match. Isner said, “It was gross out there. We were sweating like pigs. Honestly, it was disgusting.”
Isner finished with 12 aces to Sock’s seven, with seven double-faults.
“I knew it could be a tough match, Isner said. “I was up 4-1 and came out flat after the rain delay, which made it anybody’s set. Had it not rained I think I could have won that set, maybe a little bit easier.”
Roddick had no such trouble, using his serve to hold off Russell. He won just nine points off Roddick’s serve.
“You can go with any option … everything works in this hot weather,” Roddick said about his serves. “I felt like I could mix up speeds. I compare it to pitching a good ballgame. I felt like I could throw any pitch for a strike, if that makes sense.”
Roddick was leading Russell 4-3 in the first set and dominating him to the point that Russell hadn’t won a point off Roddick’s serve. Roddick then broke Russell to take a 5-3 lead before winning the next game to take the first set.
Other than the first-set break, Roddick hadn’t done much against Russell’s serve, either. That changed when Roddick went ahead 40-15 and broke Russell to take a 5-4 lead in the second set. He used his serve to win the next game and the match.
Roddick, 29, and Isner, 27, will be a compelling matchup for many reasons, including that they will be one of the United States’ doubles teams in the Summer Olympics:
They each have a victory this year and each came in the past few weeks: Roddick won at Eastbourne, England, the week before Wimbledon, for his 31st tournament title. Isner won last week’s event in Newport, R.I., for his fourth title.
Both players are good at serving: Roddick is 26th on the ATP World Tour in aces (212) before the Atlanta Open. He had 10 aces in Wednesday’s second-round match. Isner was second on the ATP World Tour in aces (580) before the Atlanta Open. He had 16 aces in Thursday’s second-round match. “If I do play Isner, we will both have to take care of our serves,” Roddick said. “Chances will be probably few and far between.”
Neither has dominated the other: Isner is 2-3 against Roddick. Isner won 7-6 (7), 6-4 in their most recent meeting in the semifinals in Winston-Salem, N.C., last year. Roddick defeated Isner 6-7 (3), 6-2, 7-5 in their only other meeting in a semifinal, in 2009 in Washington. All of their meetings have been on hard courts, which is what they are playing on this week.
They have histories in Atlanta: Roddick won the clay-court event at Atlanta Athletic Club in 2001 for his first pro victory. Isner has made the past two finals of the hard-court version of the event, losing both to Mardy Fish.