By Kyle LoJacono
Pasco County resident at Saddlebrook member John Isner won his second title of the year at the Winston-Salem Open in N.C, giving him momentum entering the U.S. Open starting this week.
The 6-foot-9 Isner, who was seeded fourth, used his big serve to record 19 aces en route to defeating Julien Benneteau 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 on Aug. 27 for his third career ATP championship. His fastest serve of the match was recorded at 139 mph. The performance comes less than two months after he took the crown at Newport, R.I.
Isner said this has been the best summer of his career and feels “ready to go” for the year’s final grand slam tournament in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
“It means I’m going into (the U.S. Open) feeling some confidence,” said the 26-year-old Isner. “I really couldn’t ask for a better couple of months going into it. I feel really good right now and the preparation has been perfect for me heading to Flushing.”
Craig Boynton, Isner’s coach for the last two years, said he has been pleased with the constant improvement of his pupil’s all-around game.
“People like to focus on his serve, and rightly so because it’s a big weapon and an important part of his game,” Boynton said. “But the thing I’m most happy with is how much better he’s moving and his fitness level. Now he can play in long matches and not wear down. He also has the mental strength to overcome problems.”
Boynton’s point was illustrated in the fashion Isner defeated Benneteau. He fought back from dropping the first set after having 23 unforced errors to claim the championship. Isner said the strong wind during the finals, caused by Hurricane Irene, was a bit of a challenge, but he adjusted to it by the second set.
“That’s the kind of match he might have lost in past years,” Boynton said. “He didn’t let the elements get to him and he fought right on through.”
Isner said he felt his serve get better as the match progressed. He delivered another big serve to Benneteau’s backhand on match point. The French qualifier needed everything he had just to return the serve, which left him out of position to stop Isner’s forehand winner to claim the title.
Isner defeated fellow American Andy Roddick in the semifinals 7-6(7), 6-4. He picks up 250 ATP ranking points to move up to No. 28 in the world for winning the tournament, along with $74,630 in prize money.
Isner has a 28-18 record this year, including winning 17 of his last 21 matches. He is scheduled to face Marcos Baghdatis, of Cyprus, on Wednesday, Aug. 31 for his opening round match of the U.S. Open.
Isner is seeded 28th in the U.S. Open. If he gets by Baghdatis, he would match up with the winner of the match between Brazilian Joao Souza and American Robby Ginepri.
Isner is seeking his first grand slam title in his four-year ATP career. His best finish at the U.S. Open was making the fourth round in 2009.
“It’s going to be very tough,” Isner said. “Obviously all the best players in the world are there trying to win. Every match is intense. It would be a dream to win it, but I need to focus on my first match and go from there.”
The championship match of the U.S. Open is set for Sunday, Sept. 11 starting at 4 p.m.