Once again, it rained on the BB&T Atlanta Open at Atlantic Station on Saturday night and again top-seeded John Isner rained service aces on his opponent. But when all had cleared, it was Andy Roddick shining on top.
Roddick and fellow American Isner will be doubles teammates in seeking gold at the 2012 London Olympics, but it was a spot in the Atlanta tournament finals they were competing against each other for Saturday before a sold out and energetic Stadium Court crowd.
Fourth-seeded Roddick, who won his first professional title at this city 13 years ago, will go after ATP World Tour title No. 32 on Sunday afternoon after defeating No. 1 seed Isner 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 6-4. The 27-year-old Roddick will face 29-year-old unseeded Gilles Muller of Luxembourg at 3 p.m. today in a match that will be televised by ESPN2. See here for ticket information.
The 6-foot-9 Isner fell to 2-4 lifetime against Roddick despite 26 aces and winning 81 percent of his first-serve points. His fastest serve was clocked at 140 miles per hour and more than a few left Roddick simply flatfooted. But Isner, the former University of Georgia star who lost in the finals of this event the previous two years to Mardy Fish, was undone by unforced errors throughout the match, many brought on by an inconsistent forehand.
Credit Roddick, who was masterful all night in dragging his opponent into long rallies with a variety of slices and spinning groundstrokes that kept he ball in play.
Isner, who endured a hour-long rain delay in beating wild card Jack Sock in the quarterfinals in a match that didn’t end until 12:42 a.m. on Saturday, led Roddick 3-2 in the first set when light rain brought a 44-minute delay. When play resumed, Roddick, playing in flashy red, white and blue patriotic shoes, won four of the next five games to take the first set.
Roddick, who also was solid with his service play Saturday, lost the second set tiebreaker as he was able to muster a weak return of a booming 137 mph serve on set point, only to see a charging Isner put it away easily at the net to even the match at one set apiece.
Isner fought off four break points in the eighth game to even the final set at 4-4. But Roddick held and then continued his excellent third-set play in successfully chipping Isner's serves back and leading the top seed into mistakes. Isner was finally broken in the 10th game as a victorious Roddick has put himself in position to win a tournament for the second time in the last three he’s entered. (Eastbourne, Great Britain last month)
Now Roddick will face Muller, who smashed 17 aces in beating eighth-seeded Go Soeda of Japan 6-4, 6-3. Muller, who lost in the Atlanta semis to Isner last year, will be looking for his first ATP World Tour title in his third finals appearance, the last coming in 2005
Currently ranked 63rd in the world, Muller was an up-and-comer on the junior ranks, beat Rafael Nadal (Wimbledon) and Roddick (U.S. Open) in 2005 grand slam events and made the 2008 U.S. Open quarterfinals. But knee injuries have slowed him in recent year as he continues to battle back.
During Friday’s quarterfinals, Muller was down 4-6, 2-3 to Fish when his opponent was forced to withdraw after suffering an ankle injury.
The former No. 1 ranked player in the world, Roddick enters Sunday’s title match, which will award the winner $86,270, with a No. 27 world ranking.
Sunday’s doubles final will pit a pair of unseeded teams with Australian Matthew Ebden and American Ryan Harrison facing Belgian Xavier Malisse and American Michael Russell for the Atlanta Open title.
Harrison, like Roddick and Isner, will be representing the USA in the Olympics that begin next weekend. He was the No. 6 seed in the singles competition here but was upset in the first round by James Blake.
Ebden and Harrison defeated the top-seed pairing of Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins of the United Kingdom 6-4, 6-4 on Saturday. Malisse and Russell turned back Raven Klaasen and Donald Young Saturday night in a tiebreaker 6-4, 4-6, (10-5). The doubles final will be played after the singles championship on Sunday.