Reported by the Winston Salem Journal
The “John Isner Late Show” was a hit at the Winston-Salem Open on Wednesday night.
Isner, the defending champion, and his opponent, Austria’s Jurgen Melzer, didn’t get their match started until close to 9 p.m. because of rain delays. Despite the wait, Isner was up to the task by dispatching Melzer 6-4, 6-3 to advance to the quarterfinals.
“We were a little bit fortunate that we didn’t get hit with more rain,” Isner said. “It’s never easy playing at night, especially with everyone else who is still alive in the tournament eating a nice steak. It made it a little difficult and a late night, but I’ll have a lot of time to recover.”
Isner will take on Belgium’s David Goffin tonight at 7 in one quarterfinal match.
It wasn’t until late in the first set that Isner gained control, thanks to his serve. He broke Melzer in the final game to win 6-4 as Melzer missed a forehand.
In the second set, Isner broke Melzer in the second game to go up 2-0 and cruised from there.
“I played well and served well,” said Isner, a Greensboro native who had a decided advantage in fan support. “I thought I hit my second serve especially well.
“And I got a break in each set, and that’s how it happens in a lot of my sets.”
Isner led 5-3 and was serving for the win. Up 40-30, he uncorked a 138 mph serve that Melzer had no shot to return, ending a match that took 1:10.
After struggling in his second-round match Tuesday, Isner was a lot stronger and sharper.
“I have to improve a little more on my break points,” Isner said, “but overall I’m happy with my match and happy that I’m still alive.”
Melzer, ranked 36th, wasn’t available for comment after the match. He returned 15 percent (5 of 33) of Isner’s first serves.
One of Isner’s former coaches from Greensboro, Rob Stevens, made sure to let Isner know during the match that this was his town.
“He’s not only one of my old coaches, but he’s a real good family friend, and he’s pretty vocal, as you guys can see and hear,” Isner said.
Isner had 14 aces and one double fault. He hit 63 percent of his second serves.
Isner has lost to Melzer twice in his career, but Isner said that both matches were indoors, in Memphis.
“He’s a very good indoor player,” Isner said, “and he was playing well then. I prefer a court like this, so I think the surface may have helped me a little bit.
“I didn’t want to go 0-3 against him in my career.”
After his match, Isner was swarmed by about 200 autographs seekers off center court. With help from a police escort, he finally got back to the locker room at Bridger Field House. He signed autographs and posed for pictures as he walked back.
“It’s nice having the crowd on my side, and it helped me last year as well,” Isner said. “It just gets me going a little more.”
Isner, ranked 10th and the third seed in the tournament, is trying to win his fifth career tournament. He said he’s used to rain delays in the outdoor season.
“It’s annoying,” Isner said. “I’m glad it rained in the warm-up, and we hadn’t started. I’m glad it didn’t rain after the match had started.”