French qualifier Julien Benneteau broke down in bitter tears after losing to hometown hero John Isner 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in Saturday’s final of the ATP Winston-Salem Open.
The Frenchman, ranked 113th, fell to 0-5 in ATP career finals, but dreamed of breaking his title duck at age 29 after fighting through qualifying matches last weekend just to earn a spot in the field of the final US Open tuneup event.
“I can’t help but show my emotions,” the disappointed runner-up said. “I went into this match with nothing to lose. I was going for every shot, but it was not enough. It was a final. It meant a lot.”
The upset was not to be as powerful US fourth-seed Isner fired 19 aces on a cloudy afternoon with Hurricane Irene raging on the coast 500km to the east. He wrapped up the third title of his career in just over two hours.
After rallying from a losing first set to win each of his previous three matches, the luck ran out for the Frenchman, who had saved two match points against Robin Haase to reach the pre-US Open final.
Crowd favorite Isner, ranked 28th, was shocked in the opening set as he lost serve in the ninth game, an error that allowed Benneteau to serve out the set after 33 minutes.
However, the Frenchman was unable to consolidate his pending upset, losing serve for 3-all in the second after saving three break points in the game.
Isner then applied the pressure to secure an insurance break for 5-3 and leveled the afternoon a game later at a set apiece.
There were still chances for Benneteau in the third, which Isner cut off with another break midway through the deciding set.
Benneteau saved pride to hold for 3-5 with his sixth ace, before Isner ended with an ace of his own, his 66th of the week, to lift the trophy.