The Norman Transcript

Sports

June 27, 2014

Isner takes 19-17 tiebreaker

LONDON — After taking a tiebreaker by the score of 19-17 on the way to reaching Wimbledon’s third round for the first time, John Isner put it quite succinctly: “I’m no stranger to matches like this.”

Sure isn’t.

The man who is best known for winning the longest tennis match in history did what he does best, serve well, and beat 62nd-ranked Jarkko Nieminen of Finland 7-6 (17), 7-6 (3), 7-5 with the help of 32 aces Thursday.

“That tiebreaker was something else,” said the ninth-seeded Isner, the only American man remaining of the 10 who were in the field. “Fortunately, I won.”

Only one men’s singles tiebreaker at Wimbledon contained more points than the 36 played by Isner and Nieminen: Bjorn Borg won a tiebreaker 20-18 in 1973.

Isner fought off five set points for Nieminen in that tiebreaker. And Isner finally converted his eighth set point when Nieminen sent a forehand wide.

By winning a pair of tiebreakers Thursday, Isner improved to 24-12 in the set-deciding format this season.

“For whatever reason, when I’m that situation, I always have a lot of adrenaline, and I’m always serving my best,” said Isner, who beat Nicolas Mahut 70-68 in the fifth set of an 11-hour, 5-minute match spread over three days in Wimbledon’s opening round in 2010.

“The name of the game for me is just taking care of the two points on my serve. Put the pressure back on my opponent. That’s what I did.”

Pounding serves at up to 138 mph (223 kph), Isner never faced a break point against Nieminen and while he only was able to convert 1 of 7 chances of his own, that was enough. It came in the next to last game, making it 6-5 in the third set.

“I get in a lot of matches where it just becomes a ‘hold-fest,”’ said the Florida-based Isner, “which is fine, but it’s not ideal.”

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