By Herman Wood
(July 30, 2015) ATLANTA, Georgia – If you’re wondering, yes, it’s still hot in Atlanta! A few showers interrupted play on Thursday, and are not helping much with the heat, breaking the rhythm of matches and sending spectators scurrying. Fortunately, they didn’t last long, didn’t wet the courts very much and play stayed on schedule. In the first stadium match, No. 1 seed, American John Isner took on Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic. Stepanek did get an early break, with Isner’s rhythm a bit off from the interruptions and help from Hawkeye. Isner got it back and with the match at five all, had a break point in hand looking at a Stepanek second serve. Stepanek was equal to the task and the match proceeded to the requisite Isner tiebreak. The breaker was not close, however, with Isner earning mini-breaks and the ball in his hand at 6-3. The expected ace was punctuated by a fist pumping YES! Isner had 33 for the match, compared to 3 for Stepanek. Isner displayed some very nice touch after motoring to pick up Stepanek droppers, making accurate placements in the open court for winners. The crowd was very appreciative of Isner’s effort as well as the aces. Stepanek managed an early break anyway to go up 3-2, then consolidated with a hold for 4-3, even forcing Isner to fight off another break point. The crowd got some serious entertainment with an exchange of drop shots initiated by Stepanek, leading first to a Stepanek lob directly over Isner, a tall order of itself. Isner made the effort, but sent his return in the clouds. When it finally came down, it wasn’t exactly an easy shot for Stepanek to finish the point and Isner was able to track down the overhead for a forehand winner. The crowd let both men know how they felt!
Stepanek seemed to have a little steam out of his game, double faulting twice to even the set at four. An encouraged Isner promptly needed five points to fire four aces and barking ensued. Isner is a University of Georgia graduate and has been a crowd favorite in years past. Georgia fans bark at the exploits of their teams to encourage them. The crowed also started up a USA chant to further encourage the Davis Cup stalwart. Perhaps the rival Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket fans wanted to show their support but couldn’t stomach a “woof”. Stepanek, serving, down 4-5, had to save a set point with his shaky serve, though Isner might have been a little jacked up and sailed a few long to help him out. After an exchange of holds, it was time for another tiebreak. (This was a theme tonight.) The king of tiebreaks did have to put in a bit of extra tennis, closing out Stepanek in the breaker 9-7. Match to Isner, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (7). Isner said after the match “Had the crowd on my side, helped so, so much.” He’ll take on Ricardas Berankis in the next round on Saturday.
In the finale, number one doubles seeds Bob and Mike Bryan took on Treat Huey and Steve Johnson. Johnson had already played a singles match in the worst of the afternoon’s heat, losing to Ricardas Berankis 6-4, 6-2. It showed a bit early, though he really turned it around after getting loose again. The Bryans ran out to a very workmanlike 5-1 lead in the first set. Johnson showed some very nice geometry, angling groundstrokes and volleys, but Huey let him down with a few poor volleys. Johnson put his foot on the gas pedal, blasting away on returns and passes, at more than one point splitting the Bryans. The Bryans tried to be offensive from the baseline, earning break points but were not able to convert, allowing Huey/Johnson to break their way all the back to 4-5 with Johnson serving. It seemed momentum had completely swung, with the Bryans bouncing balls in front of them at the net and not being their usual aggressive selves. After holds, the match proceeded to the evening theme: tiebreak.
The Bryans seemed to be able to pick on Huey at the net with blasts that would have been painful had they not been deflected. They were effective in earning a mini-break and momentum, though Huey did get the mini-break back, momentum seemed to never leave the Bryans again. They continued to pick on Huey and took the first set 7-6 (7-5 in the tie break).
The second set featured amazing shot making and tennis that looked more like the Harlem Globetrotters had changed sports. Mike Bryan whiffed a volley and it appeared that Bob volleyed it back without looking. Huey and Johnson were so stunned the ball was soon in their side of the net. The crowd enjoyed it, though the Bryans seemed a bit apologetic. Later in the set Huey and Johnson had both brothers scrambling madly. One of the Bryans ended up in a heap in the corner after a ferocious get and screeching slide. It did earn them a point, but it cost someone some skin!
At four all, Huey’s volleys again got loose, allowing a service break. Bob Bryan had the opportunity to serve it out with the crowed loudly encouraging the team, but they couldn’t get it done. Johnson and Huey fought hard to even the set at five all. After a family meeting, Mike Bryan took his turn to serve, trying to get to the seven point set tiebreaker. Johnson fired some bullets at Bob Bryan at the net, with Bryan able to block one, though the second was too good on one amazing point. The ball sounded like a shot coming off both mens’ racquets.
Following the theme for the night, the tiebreak for the second set was on. Huey/Johnson earned mini-breaks, but the Bryans got them right back and finished off the tie break and the match, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4). The Bryans clearly relish having the opportunity to control the outcome of the match and have the ball on their racquet when it matters most. It’s hard to argue that they aren’t the greatest doubles team of all time. They’ll play the winner of Chris Eubanks/Donald Young and Austin Krajicek/Nicholas Monroe in the next round.
RESULTS – THURSDAY, 30 JULY 2015
Singles – Second Round
 J. Isner (USA) d [PR] R. Stepanek (CZE) 76(3) 76(7)
[Q] D. Kudla (USA) d  J. Sock (USA) 76(6) 63
R. Berankis (LTU) d  S. Johnson (USA) 64 62
D. Sela (ISR) d  B. Becker (GER) 75 63
Doubles – Quarter-finals
 B. Bryan (USA) / M. Bryan (USA) d T. Huey (PHI) / S. Johnson (USA) 76(5) 76(4)
C. Fleming (GBR) / G. Muller (LUX) d M. Baghdatis (CYP) / M. Jaziri (TUN) 76(8) 62