Berdych and Isner to Meet in Final of 2012 Winston-Salem Open
John Isner is looking to claim his second straight Winston-Salem Open against Tomas Berdych on Saturday.

John Isner is looking to claim his second straight Winston-Salem Open against Tomas Berdych on Saturday.

Aug. 24, 2012

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By Currie McFayden, Wake Forest Media Relations (@SIDeacons)

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - Greensboro native and 2011 Winston-Salem Open champion John Isner put an end to top-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga's run on Friday afternoon, dropping the world's No. 6 player 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7-3) to advance to the final for the second consecutive year.

Following is a recap of Friday's action at the 2012 Winston-Salem Open.

Play It Again, John: Isner Halts Tsonga to Reach Second Straight Final
No. 3 seed John Isner came into the semifinal clash with history on his side. No. 1 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga entered playing the best tennis out of anyone in the field. Ultimately, Isner's power game, a very friendly strategy for hard courts, prevailed 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7-3) in one of the tournament's best matchups thus far.

"I'm not surprised at the scoreline at all. It could have been easier, but it never is when we play each other," Isner said of Tsonga in his post-match comments.

His win certainly was not easy. Nearly everyone surrounding Center Court fully expected a three-set thriller from the marquee showdown, and the two top-10 players certainly delivered. Isner grabbed the first set, a key moment for the 6'9" heavy hitter, behind the strength of 10 aces. The statistics between the duo were nearly identical in the set, and in some cases, in fact, even favored Tsonga. The Frenchman's return game outclassed Isner in the initial set, but only barely, as Tsonga won 12 return points to Isner's eight.

In the momentum-shifting second set, Tsonga actually defeated Isner at his own game by winning 25 service points compared to only 13 for the Greensboro native. Once again, though, their stats were nearly equal in all other facets. Tsonga's only real edge came in second-serve points won as he converted 53 percent (10-of-19) of his opportunities while Isner logged only 38 percent (3-of-8) in the same category. Perhaps most importantly, however, was Tsonga's ability to keep his serve by saving four break points throughout the set to avoid falling into a hole.

Despite carrying the momentum into the third and decisive set, Tsonga failed to capitalize on the opportunity to advance. Isner failed to convert on his own fair share of opportunities as well. With the set knotted at 2-2, the No. 3 seed took a 40-0 lead in the fifth game and had three chances to break Tsonga, but could not manage a winner. Later, while leading 6-5, Isner had a pair of match points that would have eliminated the need for a tiebreaker entirely, but could not seize those chances either. In the end though, it did not matter as he emerged victorious, thanks in part to the tournament-high 24 aces that he served.

Isner is now a perfect 9-0 at the Winston-Salem Open after claiming the first title last year. "I'm very, very happy to be back in the finals. I'm looking to defend my title. I did it at Newport, so maybe I can pull this off again," he quipped when asked about his title chances.

Return to Sender: Berdych's Return Game Conquers Querrey 6-4, 6-3
In the evening semifinal, No. 2 seed Tomas Berdych refused to be intimidated by seventh-seeded Sam Querrey's powerful serves and was able to install his own return game as the dominant force in the match to emerge with a 6-4, 6-3 win and a spot against John Isner in Saturday's final.

After serving 20 aces in his quarterfinal against Alexandr Dolgopolov on Thursday, Querrey came out firing again on Friday evening, tallying 11 aces in the first set. Berdych refused to wilt under the pressure, though, and settled into a comfortable return strategy, something that no other player was able to do against Querrey this week.

The big American's 31 service points won in the first set significant outpaced Berdych's 18, but the Czech matched Querrey with 31 return points while his opponent managed only nine.

As strong as his serve was in the first set, Querrey's powerful strokes began to abandon him in the second. He did tally an additional seven aces, but also logged three double faults and won only 45 percent of his service points. Berdych, the No. 7 player in the world, kept up the pressure despite being broken twice and dominated Querrey in the return game once again, winning 23 points to his 10.

The match served as excellent preparation for Berdych due to the similarity in strategy between Isner and Querrey. The final is set for Saturday afternoon at 12:30 p.m. and reads much like a Grand Slam quarterfinal might, pitting two of the world's top-10 players against one another. Isner will be playing hard to retain his title, but Berdych, the 2010 Wimbledon finalist, is certain to put up a strong fight.

 

 

 

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