John Isner fired 16 aces to advance to the quarterfinals of the BB&T Atlanta Open with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Ruben Bemelmans on Thursday night at Atlantic Station.
Because he was playing his first hard-court match since Miami in March, Isner said he didn’t feel comfortable early in he first set in which Bemelmans broke his second serve.
“I just told myself not to get too frustrated and to try to let the match run its course,” Isner said.
Isner bounced back, breaking Bemelmans’ first serve in each of the next two sets to take command. Isner, the No. 1 seed and a former standout at Georgia, will play 19-year-old Jack Sock on Friday, not before 9 p.m.
Isner is attempting to win his second consecutive tournament after taking the title in Newport, R.I. last week. He is one of four U.S. players in the BB&T who will represent the U.S. in the Olympics.
The match was delayed for 25 minutes between the second and third sets when a circuit breaker overheated in a bank of lights in the northeast corner of the stadium court.
Isner has made it to the finals of the past two tournaments in Atlanta, losing both to Mardy Fish.
That won’t happen this year after Fish retired from his match with an ankle injury.
Leading Gilles Muller 6-4, 2-2, Fish almost stumbled head-first into the net post while trying to return a drop shot. As he turned his head to avoid the post, he stretched his right leg, resulting in the injury to the inside of the right ankle.
“It was either going to be my knee, it was going to be my ankle or it was going to be my head,” he said. “Thankfully, it was my ankle. That would have hurt pretty bad.”
Fish, the No. 2 seed, said the injury wouldn’t be diagnosed until an MRI was performed Thursday night or Friday.
“This is hard because obviously I like playing here in Atlanta,” he said.
Fish was examined by trainers immediately after the injury and returned to play. He won the game to take a 3-2 lead.
He called for a trainer during the change-over and again returned to play.
Muller served once. Fish watched the ball go by and then took a couple of steps toward the net. He bent over and hit the top of racket into the court a few times before reaching out his hand to Muller to retire.
The injured ankle is another bad break for Fish, who missed two months earlier this season after having a procedure to correct an irregular heartbeat. He reached the fourth round of Wimbledon in his return to tournament tennis. He declined to represent the U.S. in the Olympics, citing his health. Fish said he would get over it, but seemed frustrated in this post-match press conference.
“It’s terrible luck, bad luck for the tournament and even worse luck for Mardy, who has been down on his luck this year,” Isner said. “We’re all pulling for him. He’s such a good talent. As soon as he gets back he’ll be ready to play good tennis.”
Isner said he wasn’t going to watch the last match of the night between fellow former Bulldog Ignacio Taboada and former Georgia Tech standout Kevin King, because his Cocker Spaniel, Magill, was in town.
Yes, the dog is named after Dan Magill, whose name graces Georgia’s tennis complex.
Taboada and King, who received a wildcard entry into the main draw, were defeated by the Australian tandem of Colin Ebelthite and Marinko Matosevic, 7-5, 7-5.
Taboada went 64-18 in two years at Georgia and 100-37 in his career, which started at Miami.
King went 80-41 in singles at Tech, and 87-39 in doubles.
– Doug Roberson, AJC.