Is­ner to face Aussie qual­i­fier Eb­den in Newport fi­nal

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Top seed John Is­ner blasted 15 aces to de­feat fel­low Amer­i­can Bjorn Fratan­gelo 6-2, 6-4 Satur­day, book­ing an ATP Hall of Fame Open fi­nal against Aus­tralian qual­i­fier Matthew Eb­den.

Is­ner has not faced a break point in three matches this week on the grass at Newport, Rhode Is­land, as he goes for his 11th ca­reer ti­tle and third Hall of Fame crown af­ter 2011 and 2012.

“I’ve played three matches and six sets and I haven’t played a tie-breaker I can’t re­mem­ber the last time I did that,” Is­ner said. Eb­den, the low­est-ranked ATP fi­nal­ist of the year at 249th, downed Ger­many’s 131st-ranked Peter Go­jowczyk 6-3, 6-3 in the other semi-fi­nal.

The 29-year-old South African-born for­mer Com­mon­wealth Games bronze medal­ist, ap­pear­ing in his maiden ATP semi-fi­nal, needed just 62 min­utes to ad­vance. “This is pretty cool,” Eb­den said. “I can’t be­lieve it. I’m ob­vi­ously very happy. Def­i­nitely couldn’t be hap­pier, not only win­ning but get­ting lots of matches.”

Is­ner, whose most re­cent ATP ti­tle came at At­lanta in 2015, made his first fi­nal since last Novem­ber’s Paris Mas­ters, where he lost to Bri­tain’s top-ranked Andy Mur­ray. The lanky 32-year-old cred­its work on be­ing more ag­gres­sive on his re­turn game for faster fin­ishes than his trade­mark hard serves typ­i­cally pro­duce. “There’s no other way I should have to play. I should be ag­gres­sive. It’s eas­ier said than done,” Is­ner said.

He likes the ex­tra rest as well, not­ing the ben­e­fits to such stal­warts as world num­ber one Andy Mur­ray of Bri­tain and Ser­bia’s fourth-ranked No­vak Djokovic. “I feel good,” Is­ner said. “To be like Mur­ray and Djokovic and win these matches 2 and 2, it’s great.”

Is­ner, ranked 21st, broke at love to close the first set in 34 min­utes and the match ended af­ter 72 min­utes when 142nd-ranked Fratan­gelo swat­ted a fore­hand long, lift­ing Is­ner’s ca­reer mark at Newport to 18-5.

Is­ner has won both prior matches against Eb­den with­out drop­ping a set, in the fouth round at In­dian Wells in 2012 and in the sec­ond round at Wim­ble­don in 2015. “It’s go­ing to be a tough match,” Is­ner said of fac­ing Eb­den. “He’s feel­ing very good about his game and I think it’s his best sur­face.”

Eb­den, only 3-3 in ATP main draw matches this year un­til this week, has won six matches in as many days. He broke Go­jowczyk five times and sealed vic­tory on his sec­ond match point when the Ger­man smacked a back­hand wide.

A left knee in­jury led to a long 2016 lay­off for Eb­den that re­vi­tal­ized his game once healthy. “That helped me turn a cor­ner men­tally and just en­joy my­self,” Eb­den said.

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