Western & Southern Open: Isner, Serena reach finals | sports | Hindustan Times
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Western & Southern Open: Isner, Serena reach finals

John Isner delivered perhaps the best tennis of his career this week as he made his way through an intimidating field to reach the final of the Western & Southern Open.

sports Updated: Aug 19, 2013 00:22 IST

John Isner delivered perhaps the best tennis of his career this week as he made his way through an intimidating field to reach the final of the Western & Southern Open.

On Saturday, he defeated No. 7 Juan Martín del Potro, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (9), 6-3, continuing his string of victories against players in the top 11 of the ATP rankings.

The 6-foot-10 Isner, best known for his booming serves, was a point from defeat midway through his semifinal match against del Potro, but he benefited from his opponent’s nerves. Del Potro was ahead by 5-3 in the second set and had match point on his serve, but he double-faulted. Isner then earned his first break point of the match, and he converted it with a backhand winner.

In women’s semifinals featured even greater serving woes. Li Na lost 7-5, 7-5 loss to top-ranked Serena Williams in the first; of the 27 games in Victoria Azarenka’s 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 win over No 14 Jelena Jankovic in the second, 23 had breaks of serve.

No 2 Azarenka will face Williams in Sunday’s women’s final. With her win Saturday, Williams clinched first place in the US Open Series. If she successfully defends her US Open title, she would claim a bonus of $1mn to earn a total of $3.6mn.

While Williams has shown she is comfortable playing abroad, Isner has had most of his success on US soil. He has a 131-60 record in the US, compared with 66-66 outside the country.

In top form

Isner, ranked 22nd and unseeded, has beaten four players ranked 11th or better in this tournament — No 11 Richard Gasquet in the second round, No 10 Milos Raonic in the third and No 1 Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals. Isner was 0-4 in his four previous meetings against top-11 players this year.

Isner’s opponent Sunday will be No. 4 seed Rafael Nadal, who beat No 6 Tomas Berdych, 7-5, 7-6 (4). Despite the loss, Berdych will move into the top five for the first time in next week’s rankings, passing Roger Federer, who will slip to No 7 after his loss to Nadal in the quarterfinals.

If Nadal wins Sunday, he will surpass Andy Murray for the No. 2 spot in next week’s rankings.

Isner has never beaten Nadal, losing each of their three previous meetings. But he has given Nadal more difficulty than most. In their most recent meeting, in the first round of the 2011 French Open, Nadal needed five sets to beat Isner. It was the first time Nadal had played a fifth set on the Parisian clay courts.

This year, surprisingly, Nadal’s clearest domination has been on hardcourts having won titles at the Masters events in Indian Wells, and in Montreal, compiling a 14-0 record.

By making the final of the this tournament for the first time, Nadal has reached the finals at each of the 15 biggest tournaments on the tennis calendar: the four Grand Slams, the year-end World Tour Finals, the nine Masters events, and the Olympics. Nadal’s 25 Masters titles are the most for any player since the designation was created in 1990.

Nadal and Williams have had parallel successes on their respective tours. Both won the French Open and will be going for their ninth titles of the year. Both have lost only three times this year. Williams is 60-3, Nadal 52-3.

“Yeah, I’m motivating him,” Williams said jokingly. “So he’s keeping up with me, and I’m keeping up with him. We’re motivating each other even though we’re on separate tours. So, yeah, I’ve been definitely keeping up. When he won today, I was like, Oh, I’ve got to somehow manage to win. So it’s fun.”

Bopanna-Edouard lose

Rohan Bopanna and Edouard Roger-Vasselin were knocked out by Spaniards Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez in the semi-finals. The eighth-seeded Indo-French combination failed to get any of the five break points and went down 5-7, 2-6.