Three-time defending champion John Isner won the tallest matchup in ATP World Tour history, beating Reilly Opelka 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-2 on Saturday in the BB&T Atlanta Open semifinals.
The 6-foot-10 Isner had 22 aces and never faced a break point against the 6-foot-11 Opelka, the 18-year-old Michigan player who replaced the former University of Georgia star as the tour’s tallest player.
“I had to stay focused and keep holding my serve, and that’s exactly what I did. I think experience was on my side,” Isner said. “But we’re going to be seeing a lot of Reilly in the future…. He’s way more advanced than I was at 18. I wish him all the success in the world.”
The top-seeded Isner has won 15 straight matches in the hardcourt event and reached the final for the sixth time in seven appearances.
He has 10 tour titles, the last a year ago in Atlanta.
“I wish we could play every week in Atlanta,” Isner said. “I think I’d be No. 1 in the world.”
After winning the second set, Isner left the court for nearly nine minutes to changes clothes in the hot and humid conditions. He broke Opelka’s serve _ with Opelka ending the game with a double fault _ to take a 3-2 lead, and broke again for a 5-2 advantage.
Opelka was playing his third tour event. He lost in the first round in the first two.
“It was a good week,” Opelka said. “I had some good matches. I was pretty happy with how everything went this week.”
Isner will face second-seeded Nick Kyrgios of Australia. The American is 2-0 against Kyrgios, winning in Montreal on a hardcourt last season and last year in Madrid on clay.
“He’s a shot-maker,” Isner said about Kyrgios. “He’s proven he can beat anyone in the world.”
Kyrgios beat Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 in the afternoon.
“It was a hot and humid day,” Kyrgios said. “Yoshi is a great player and makes you play a lot of balls and a lot of rallies. The crowd was great today, too.”
Kyrgios had 16 aces and saved three of four break points he faced. He won in Marseille, France, in February for his lone tour title.
“I knew at the start of the week that I could get this far,” Kyrgios said. “It’s not really surprising, but it’s rewarding for sure.”
Nishioka was playing his first tour semifinal.
“I think I played very well, but he has a great serve,” Nishioka said. “He has a great second serve and I didn’t have many chances to break. I couldn’t put pressure on his first serves either.”