John Isner fired 16 aces in a 7-6 (7/1), 6-4 victory over Australia’s Lleyton Hewitt on Sunday to win the ATP Hall of Fame Championships title for the second year running.
“It’s huge for me,” the top-seeded American said. “It’s the first time I’ve ever defended a title. I’m very happy to come through today against a great opponent — in my opinion one of the greatest ever. It’s a big win for me.”
Hewitt, who received a wild card, was playing in his first final since June 2010, when he captured his 28th career title on the grass courts at Halle, Germany.
The two-time Grand Slam champion and former world No. 1 has battled a string of injuries in recent years and underwent radical foot surgery in February.
Isner’s triumph ended Hewitt’s unbeaten career run in grass-court finals, putting his record at 7-1, but with his run to the championship match, Hewitt is projected to rise from his current 233rd in the world to about No. 151 in the rankings.
His performance was also a morale-booster as he prepares for the Olympics at Wimbledon, where the 31-year-old is set to play singles as a wild-card entrant.
Isner is also scheduled for Olympic action and he welcomed the chance to tune-up for the Games with tournament competition.
He plans to fit in one more ATP tournament before the Games, heading the field in Atlanta, Georgia this week.
“The best practice is match practice,” said Isner, who saved the only break point he faced in the match in the first set.
The American gained the only break of the contest to take a 2-1 lead in the second set and that was the only opening he needed.
After Hewitt saved one match point against his serve in the ninth game, Isner closed it out with a dominant service game that opened with two aces, followed by a service winner and his final ace of the match on his second match point.
Isner claimed his fourth career title and his first of the year after runner-up finishes in Indian Wells, California, and Houston, Texas.
AP, UMAG, CROATIA
Marin Cilic became the first home player to win the Croatia Open in 22 years on Sunday by beating Marcel Granollers of Spain 6-4, 6-2 in the final.
Cilic trailed 4-2 in the first set, before winning nine games in a row to seize a commanding 5-0 lead in the second.
Cilic served for the match at 5-1, but Granollers broke and saved two match points, before Cilic sealed the victory with a forehand winner.
Cilic is the first Croat to claim the title since Goran Prpic won the inaugural event in 1990. It was his second title of the year, after winning at Queen’s Club in London last month.
“This was a special week and a special victory for me,” Cilic told the crowd in Umag. “I played some great tennis.”
Granollers said Cilic “was a better player today.”
“I started well, but with players like Cilic you have to be careful,” said Granollers, who ousted top-seeded countryman Fernando Verdasco in the semi-finals.
Despite the loss, Granollers moved into the top 20 in the ATP rankings yesterday for the first time, jumping from 24th to 19th. He won his last title in Valencia, Spain, in November last year.
AFP, BASTAD, SWEDEN
In-form spaniard and top seed David Ferrer won his fifth ATP title of the year in Bastad, Sweden, on Sunday, beating compatriot Nicolas Almagro 6-2, 6-2.
Ferrer, 30 and winning his 16th career title in what was his 31st final, eased to the title against his 26-year-old opponent, who has yet to beat him in 10 meetings.