Isner advances to BB&T Atlanta Open semifinal over Zverev

Everybody knows University of Georgia fans travel well, but there’s nothing quite like a Saturday night crowd in Athens.

After defeating world No. 45 Mischa Zverev 7-5, 3-6, 6-1 on Friday in the quarterfinals of the 2018 BB&T Atlanta Open, John Isner, ranked No. 9 in the world, compared playing on Stadium Court with the Georgia Bulldogs playing in Sanford Stadium.

The crowd clearly was on Isner’s side Friday afternoon, as he took on Zverev for the first time since losing to him in the 2017 U.S. Open.

Zverev got the win in New York and forced a second set in Atlanta after Isner double-faulted to give his opponent the break and an advantage. But with a 134-mph serve under his belt, the third set was all for the American. After easily holding serve in the first game, Isner broke Zverev twice to go up 5-0. Two aces from Zverev prevented the bagel, but Isner held serve on love to clinch the match.

“I said after my first match maybe it would be different here in Atlanta,” Isner said when asked about facing Zverev after losing to him in their previous three meetings.

“Conditions are good for me. … It was a weird match. The balls were bouncing everywhere, it was tough to control. I was happy to get through three sets.”

After the match, Zverev agreed that the conditions were in Isner’s favor, but he came in feeling “relaxed” with hope that he might “get lucky and win.”

“(Isner) just loves playing here. I think it is one of his favorite places, and his service is even more effective on this court,” he said. “Ball bounces were extremely high, and I feel like the older the balls get the higher they bounce, which is very unusual for most conditions you play in.”

During the deciding set, Zverev “lost a rhythm” and gave up a few second serves. In the six times the two have played, Zverev has learned “you can’t really do that against John.”

The win in Atlanta ties their series at 3-3 and marks Isner’s first victory over Zverev since 2016. Coming out on top was a confidence boost for the reigning champ and further proof backing his claim that he’s playing the best tennis of his career this season.

To continue his run in Atlanta and have a shot at defending his title, Isner will have to go through another familiar foe: World No. 55 Matthew Ebden. Isner holds the overall advantage with three wins to Ebden’s one, but the Australian has the most recent bragging rights from a victory on his home court in the Australian Open.

Their fifth meeting will be a showdown in the semifinals Saturday, and with this match set in Isner’s backyard, the four-time winner is confident he can keep the title at home.