Top seed John Isner and second-seeded Kevin Anderson set up an Atlanta Open final billed as the tallest in ATP tour history after semi-final triumphs on Saturday.
Isner fired 21 aces in a 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (7/5) victory over Australian veteran Lleyton Hewitt, while South Africa’s Anderson saved two set points in the 12th game of the second frame to force the tiebreaker en route to a 6-3, 7-6 (7/3) victory over Ryan Harrison.
In a rivalry that dates back to their US university days, the 2.06m-tall Isner and 2.03m-tall Anderson have met eight times previously, but never in a final. Isner has won five of those meetings, most recently in the quarter-finals at Delray Beach this year.
“John’s very tricky to play. Obviously he’s got one of the best serves probably in the history of the game, and he really uses it well,” said Anderson, another big server who fired 14 aces past Harrison.
Isner, a two-time Atlanta runner-up seeking his seventh career ATP crown, improved to 4-2 against Hewitt and avenged two losses to the Aussie this year — in the second round at Indian Wells and earlier this month in the semi-finals at Newport.
In the third set, Isner went down triple break point in the seventh game, but rescued them all with service winners and held.
Hewitt forced another break point in the ninth game, but Isner saved it with a serve and volley winner, and held for a 5-4 edge on the way to the tie-breaker.
Isner, with the ATP’s most tie-breaker wins this year at 23-6 and wins in both of his prior tie-breakers against Hewitt, opened with a 225kph ace and ripped a forehand winner for a 2-0 lead.
Hewitt fell and Isner hit an easy backhand for a 3-0 advantage, but the Aussie, who entered 5-5 in tie-breaks this year, swatted a cross-court forehand winner, but netted a forehand to hand Isner a 4-1 lead.
Hewitt fought back to level at 4-4 when Isner netted a backhand volley. The American answered with his final ace, only to have Hewitt respond with a forehand volley winner for 5-5.
Isner reached match point with a backhand volley winner and hit a service winner to take the victory after 2 hours and 23 minutes.
AFP, GSTAAD, Switzerland
Sixth seed Mikhail Youzhny produced a workmanlike performance to beat 2008 champion Victor Hanescu 6-3, 6-3 on Saturday and set up a final with Robin Haase at the Swiss Open.
Dutchman Haase rallied past Spanish fifth seed Feliciano Lopez 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 in a battling contest lasting one-and-three-quarter hours in torrid heat to reach just his third ATP Tour final.
The pair of finalists are far from what had been expected when Roger Federer announced his surprise participation in the wake of a second-round loss at the All England Club.
The week in the Alps had been driven by hype and expectation from the presence of Federer and fellow Swiss, Stanislas Wawrinka.
However, with both of the drawcards making premature exits having been hampered by back injuries during the sell-out week, it is the no-nonsense 31-year-old journeyman Youzhny who finds himself playing for the title against a tournament debutant.
Youzhny, who finished runner-up to Roger Federer last month on grass at Halle, leads 57th-ranked Haase 4-0, with their last encounter coming in the first round at Wimbledon in June.
“I made a semi-final in 2011, but it’s great to go even further,” said Youzhny, who saved three match points in his quarter-final against Juan Monaco.