Isner Repeats as Winston-Salem Open Champ
Aug. 25, 2012
By Alex Botoman, Wake Forest Media Relations (@SIDeacons)
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - John Isner is still the only champion that the Winston-Salem Open has ever had. The Triad-native repeated as the winner of the second-year event by defeating Tomas Berdych 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (9) in the final on Saturday before a capacity crowd at the Wake Forest Tennis Complex.
The big-serving Isner, who grew up in Greensboro, withstood a shaky first set, in which he was uncharacteristically broken twice, to take the second set by converting his only break-point opportunity of the match and after neither player could break in the final set, outlasted Berdych in a long third-set tiebreak.
"I only have five (ATP) titles and two of them have come here. It's a lot of fun to play in front of a pretty much 100 percent home crowd. That's what I had last year, and that's what I had again this year," said Isner. "It was a very good match (and) an incredible atmosphere. At times it wasn't the prettiest of tennis, but I was able to gut it out, and I'm very proud of that.
Berdych looked to have had the match won, leading 6-5 in the deciding tiebreak when he came into net and had what looked to be an easy put-away on his racket. But the Czech dumped the backhand volley into the net, keeping Isner alive.
"I know that I'm fortunate to have won this match, it could have easily gone the other way," said Isner. "No shots really easy today because of the (windy) conditions. Even a shot like that that seemed routine is not that easy considering the circumstances of the match - match point - and the conditions."
But that's not to say that Isner won solely because of luck. He saved some of his biggest shots for the tiebreak, cracking unreturnable serves of 137 MPH and 141 MPH at 6-7 and 7-7 in the tiebreak to earn his first match point, and blasting a deep forehand that Berdych could not return on his second match point to close out the tiebreak and the match 11-9.
Last year, Isner used his win at the Winston-Salem Open as a springboard for the following week's US Open, where he reached the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam for the first time.
With his success this summer, winning Newport and reaching the semifinals in Atlanta and Toronto, combined with a favorable draw in which he will avoid potential matches with favorites Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray until the semifinals, Isner, the highest-ranked American on the tour, looks to have a good chance at making another deep run at his home Grand Slam.
"Being the top American heading into the US Open is going to be pretty special for me," said Isner. "I don't think it's going to put any pressure on me. I'm going into the US Open feeling pretty good about myself."
While Isner picked up a win this week, so did the Winston-Salem Open. The tournament attracted one of the best fields for an ATP Tour 250 level event this year and with Berdych ranked No. 7 and Isner No. 10, was the only one to have a final that featured two players ranked in the top-10 of the ATP Rankings at the time.
Tournament director Bill Oakes wisely held onto his wild cards until a few weeks before the tournament and as a result was able to attract top players like Berdych and David Nalbandian who were looking to get a final tune-up on hard courts heading into the US Open.
"I won a couple of matches, which was the (reason) that I wanted to come here," said Berdych. "I was really happy to be here. It was a nice tournament and nice matches."