Isner to face Aussie qualifier Ebden in Newport final
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.