By Herman Wood
(July 25, 2013) ATLANTA, GA -In his first very first ATP main draw second round match, 19 year old Christian Harrison gave John Isner plenty to handle. Christian is the 19-year-old younger brother of Ryan Harrison, who won earlier tonight. Rhyne spoke about his brother’s chance in his post match press conference before Christian’s match, “He’s a quiet confident guy. I tried to tell him that his game, his ability, is capable of winning these matches. I told him I was proud of him and was excited for him. I told him to trust himself and stay calm and confident and don’t get overwhelmed and just play tennis, he’ll give himself a chance to win.” He most certainly did that.
As to be expected, John Isner opened the match with a service game featuring 2 of his 29 aces, a service winner and not much else in play. At one point, the average length of rally was 2.1 strokes. Isner had to have attention on his left knee on several changeovers, though never did ask for an official medical time out. He flexed it and stretched it throughout the match. The set stayed on serve, until Harrison was serving at 4-5. Isner made an extra effort to go all out with service returns, though he couldn’t convert. Finally at 6-6, the tiebreak everyone expected began. Though mini-breaks were exchanged, neither player could get two points in a row at critical junctures. Harrison made a veteran challenge on a service call and held his composure in a critical point when Isner stumbled. Isner finally secured a mini break he could use with a nice touch volley and a venture to the net to finish off the set on a high volley Harrison couldn’t reach.
The second set looked to go the way of the first- tiebreak. Isner put big pressure on Harrison in his first service game, forcing long rallies, but could not prevail. At that point, the match reverted to the average 2.1 shot rally and a tiebreak looked inevitable. Harrison had other plans. With Isner serving to stay in at 4-5, he struggled to get his first serve in and Harrison capitalized by winning rallies. At set point down, Isner tossed in a double fault to gift the second set to Harrsion.
The third set featured quality tennis, with nice gets, big overheads, and tricky volleys. The crowd was very appreciative of the high level of play from both players. Harrison did show his lack of experience with the challenge system in this set, wasting his last challenge on an Isner service bomb when the score was not in his favor deep in a game. Perhaps it was out of sense of desperation. Finally, at 5-5, with Harrison serving, Isner stepped up the pressure. Perhaps it was the return of his “biggest” fan. A young boy, who wasn’t tall enough to reach the bottom of Isner’s shorts to tug on them to get his attention, encouraged Isner loudly on every point in the first set. Strangely, he was not vocal in the second set and returned for the third. Isner earned the seventh break point with a nice volley at the net and finished with a blazing service return to get to 6-5. On his service game, Isner struggled to get first serves in for much of the game. When he did, they were the expected aces. Harrison saved three match points with a veteran’s poise. At deuce, Isner produced an ace to get match point and closed it out with a service winner. 7-6(9), 4-6, 7-5. Isner will face James Blake, who beat Evgeny Donskoy earlier in the day 6-3, 6-2, in the quarterfinals. That match is set to go off at 4 PM, which would is a surprise, considering Isner is the No 1 seed. Ryan Harrison is set to play Santiago Giraldo in the 7 PM match.