By Erik Gudris
NORCROSS, Georgia – Before the Atlanta Tennis Championships started, defending champion Mardy Fish quipped that local favorite John Isner had four hometown events based on his growing up in North Carolina, going to school in Georgia and training full time in Florida. Todayâ€™s action down at the Racquet of The South saw several local favorites in action, but it was Isner match against a resurgent James Blake that had Isner drawing on all the home court support he could get.
Atlantaâ€™s Donald Young teamed up with Ryan Harrison in doubles as they took on the German pairing of Matthias Bachinger and Frank Moser. Despite coming from behind in the first two sets, in large part based on the skillful net play of Harrison, Young and Harrison lost momentum late in the match and a slew of errors early on from Harrison in the match tie-break saw the German team finally win 4-6, 7-6, 10-6, giving Young a sooner than expected exit from his hometown tourney. Another local hopeful, Robby Ginepri, whoâ€™s returning to the ATP tour after an extended break due to injury, couldnâ€™t keep his comeback going as he lost to Luxembourgâ€™s Gilles Muller 7-6 (6) 2-6, 6-2.
But the main event was Isner taking on his ATC doubles partner Blake in a long duel that lasted almost three hours. After winning the first set in a tiebreak, Isner jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the second set before Blake broke back to level things and eventually force another tiebreak that he went on to win. The third set saw both men stay even with each other early until the 4-3 game when Blake started turning defense into offense, coming up with stunning winners on the dead run. Isner, despite looking tired, managed to serve himself out of trouble when facing break points against him. Eventually Isner finally broke Blake to go up 6-5 in the final set. Blake, knowing he had a tremendous chance to close out the tiring Isner, swatted his racquet against the ground several times as Isnerâ€™s serves sailed by him. Blake hit one more return long to give Isner the match 7-6 (8), 6-7 (3), 7-5.
During his on-court interview when asked about the copious amounts of fluids he drank all match said, â€œI was dying. I went through nine shirts this match and I was down to my last one. It was disgusting.â€ He later admitted to being a little bit more lucky than Blake this evening but he will probably hope for a match that requires less effort when he takes on Yen-Hsun Lu in the next round.