HOME COOKING: John Inser Wins Inaugural Winston-Salem Open
Triad-native John Isner captured the inaugural Winston-Salem Open title
Photo Gallery

Aug. 27, 2011

By Alex Botoman

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - It was a storybook ending for Triad-native John Isner as he came from behind to defeat French qualifier Julien Benneteau 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 to capture the inaugural Winston-Salem Open championship.

The fourth-seeded Isner received the full support of the local crowd, which watched him rally back after a shaky first set to capture the third ATP Tour title of his career.

"Any time you can win a tournament at this level, it's an accomplishment," said Isner. "For me personally, this is great because I did it in virtually my home town."

Isner, who stayed at his parent's home in Greensboro during the tournament, said after the match that coming home to his mother's home-cooked meals played a big part in his success this week.

"(This week) was very different in the fact that every day when I've left the court, I've gone home instead of being cooped up in a hotel room," said Isner. "I get to relax on my parent's patio, watch TV and throw the ball to my dog. It's a break from the norm for me and it was everything I needed."

In almost a complete reversal of a typical match for the big-serving Isner, it was Benneteau who possessed the dominating serve early, surrendering no more than one point in any of his first seven service games. At the same time, the Frenchman was putting a lot of pressure on Isner's serve, earning a break at 4-4 and then serving out the first set 6-4.

The outer reaches of Hurricane Irene brought winds that swirled through the tournament court in the first set, conditions that Isner admitted were handled better by Benneteau.

"You really have to be on top of your footwork in the wind because the ball is moving every which way," said Isner. "He was doing that a lot better than me. Fortunately, I feel like (the wind) calmed down at one point there in the second set and pretty much in the third."

Along with a change in the winds came a change in Isner's confidence level as his footwork picked up and he began making fewer unforced errors. After finally winning more than a point on Benneteau's serve at 2-3 in the second set, he earned his first break of the match at 3-4 and went on to serve out the set 6-3 to force a third.

Once he got in his rhythm in the third set, there was no stopping the 6-foot 9-inch Isner, who after earning an early break, turned up the heat on his serve, saving the fastest for the final game when he cracked a 139 mph ace.

"I was just lackluster out there for a good part of that match, especially in the first set," said Isner. "I told myself to try to get my intensity up and try to move ahead a little bit in his (service) games. I did in that 4-3 game in the second set and was able to break. Once I broke serve there, I felt confident for the rest of the match."

That Benneteau was even in the championship match was a miracle in and of itself. After missing time with an injury, the Frenchman's ranking had dropped to the point that he had to come through the qualifying to earn a spot in the main draw.

In what had to be one of the crazier weeks of his life, Benneteau played nine matches in eight days and totaled more than 14 hours on the court.

"I spent more than a week here, and I have good memories now here," said Benneteau. "We had an earthquake and now a hurricane, and I played nine matches in eight days. It's been a good week, and I have to say that it's a very, very good tournament."

Both Isner and Benneteau echoed the thoughts of many the others about the quality of the Winston-Salem Open in its first year and said that they would be back for next year's edition.

"After winning this event this year, I really don't anticipate skipping out on this event next year," said Isner. "It's not often that you get to play this close to home.

Spring Game