Isner marches on but Fer­rer makes quick exit

The Dominion Post - - Sport - MARVIN FRANCE

Se­cond-seed John Isner will ap­proach the rest of the ASB Clas­sic like he is play­ing with ‘‘house money’’ af­ter sur­viv­ing a huge scare from Tu­nisian jour­ney­man Malek Jaziri.

The 2010 and 2014 cham­pion stopped the run of big-name de­par­tures yes­ter­day, but only just af­ter hold­ing his nerve the third-set tiebreak to win 6-3 3-6 7-6 in two hours.

What be­gan as a dream day for or­gan­is­ers got off to a hor­ri­ble start when de­fend­ing cham­pion and top seed Roberto Bautista-Agut with­drew due to a stom­ach virus be­fore third-seed David Fer­rer was knocked out by Dutch­man Robin Haase.

Sixth-seed Feli­ciano Lopez also pulled out prior to his se­cond round clash with Jeremy Chardy due to a back spasm.

Kiwi Ru­bin Statham, who re­placed Bautista-Agut in the main draw, came close to pulling off a ma­jor up­set, shrug­ging off his de­feat in the dou­bles just a cou­ple of hours ear­lier to take Jiri Ve­sely to three sets, los­ing 6-7 7-5 6-3.

And Isner ad­mit­ted he was lucky not to be leav­ing early as he strug­gled to find his rhythm in his first match in two months.

‘‘I played well in the big mo­ments to­day,’’ the bid-serv­ing Amer­i­can said.

‘‘There was some things I did very well, there was things that I can def­i­nitely im­prove on but I’ve got to trick my­self into think­ing I’m play­ing with house money now con­sid­er­ing that I could very eas­ily be out of this tour­na­ment.’’

The 31-year-old’s vic­tory sets up an all-Amer­i­can quar­ter­fi­nal against sev­enth-seed Steve John­son, who beat Tai­wan’s Yen-Hsun Lun 6-4 7-6.

Isner has won four of six matches against John­son, although the lat­ter won their most re­cent meet­ing in Wash­ing­ton last year.

‘‘We’ve played six times and ev­ery match is gen­er­ally close. He’s got a huge fore­hand and he moves ex­tremely well,’’ Isner said.

‘‘We’re very good friends off the court but on the court it’s go­ing to be a bat­tle and we’ll see what hap­pens.’’

Cypriot Mar­cos Bagh­datis was also forced to dig deep, bat­tling back from a set down to edge Ger­man wild­card Dustin Brown 4-6 7-6 6-4.

The 2006 Aus­tralian Open fi­nal­ist was in se­ri­ous trou­ble late in the third set only to save four break points be­fore break­ing Brown in the next game to progress.

Bagh­datis meets Ve­sely in the quar­ters.

With the top-four seeds re­ceiv­ing a bye in the first round, yes­ter­day was the first chance for the pub­lic to see the tour­na­ment’s elite in ac­tion (fourth-seed Jack Sock kicks off the evening ses­sion).

But Bautista-Agut de­parted with­out fir­ing a shot as an ill­ness picked up dur­ing his tri­umph in In­dia last week left him un­able to com­pete.

Four-time cham­pion Fer­rer did not last much longer, stunned 2-6 6-4 7-6 by Haase in the open­ing match on Cen­tre Court.

Af­ter be­ing down a break early in the third set, the vet­eran Spa­niard im­me­di­ately hit back to set up a tiebreak.

But in­stead of his ex­pe­ri­ence com­ing to the fore when it mat­tered most, he made a cru­cial un­forced er­ror on serve to hand Haase the ad­van­tage and he closed out the match to cap a bril­liant fight­back.

‘‘I did a mis­take with my fore­hand, an easy mis­take and well, ten­nis is that, and it’s very im­por­tant to [hold] con­cen­tra­tion,’’ Fer­rer said. ’’He served very well in the third set. The court is fast and it’s not easy to break but I didn’t re­turn so well.

‘‘It was a close match and in the im­por­tant mo­ments he served bet­ter than me.’’

The re­sult con­tin­ues a poor build-up to the Aus­tralian Open for Fer­rer fol­low­ing a se­cond-round de­feat to lit­tle-known Aussie Jor­dan Thom­son at the Bris­bane In­ter­na­tional last week.

‘‘To­mor­row night I go to Mel­bourne and I will try as soon as pos­si­ble to for­get this match and will be fo­cused with the Grand Slam,’’ he added.

The early signs were promis­ing for Fer­rer, who did not con­cede a sin­gle break point to take the first set.

But at 34, the legs don’t move as fast as they used to and the 58thranked Haase ground his way back into the con­test by run­ning Fer­rer around the court.

Haase in­sisted, though, that was not his ini­tial strat­egy.

‘‘If you know David Fer­rer, he likes to run so that’s not the right game plan,’’ he said. ‘‘But of course, in the end Haase, who beat New Zealand’s Finn Tear­ney in the first round, will meet Por­tu­gal’s Joao Sousa in the quar­ter­fi­nals af­ter he cruised past Bri­tish qual­i­fier Bry­dan Klein 6-3 6-4.

PHIL WAL­TER/GETTY IMAGES

David Fer­rer plays a re­turn dur­ing his se­cond round match against Robin Haase at the ASB Clas­sic.

ANTHONY AU-YE­UNG/GETTY IMAGES

John Isner plays a back­hand in his se­cond round match against Malek Jaziri at the ASB Clas­sic.

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