It is familiar territory for John Isner, playing in his fifth BB&T Atlanta Open Final in six years. Marcos Baghdatis seeks to finish off a great week with his first ATP level title since 2010.
(5) John Isner vs. (5) Marcos Baghdatis
Isner is looking to complete the three-peat today as he battles Baghdatis for the Atlanta Open title. Isner won the title in 2013 and 2014. He is 19-3 at this event in his career after his three set win in the semifinals over Denis Kulda 4-6, 6-2, 7-5. Isner was broken once on three break points in that match, but the constant pressure from his serve wore on Kudla in the end. Isner was able to secure a fourth break of serve to end the match. His serve was massive again with 25 aces and Isner won 89 percent of the points off his first serve. His second serve was a lttle less effective than the previous round, but he still won 13 of 24 points on it.
Baghdatis will feel like he got some nice prep work for Isner done in facing the big serve of Gilles Muller in his semifinal match. Baghdatis aced the challenged with a 6-7 (4), 6-3, 7-6 (4) win over the lefty. It was particularly impressive in that Baghdatis broke Muller three times on Saturday. Prior to that semifinal, Muller had only faced one break chance the entire tournament through three rounds. Baghdatis converted three of six chances overall and won 33 percent of the points off Muller’s serve. That was far more than anyone had been able to do this week. Baghdatis’ serve was solid enough with ten aces, but he was broken twice on four opportunities. Those breaks both came in the third set where Beghdatis has a break lead at 4-2 and had the match on his racquet at 6-5. That did not come back to bite Baghdatis on Saturday, but it won’t be a good recipe for success today against Isner.
Isner and Baghdatis have battled plenty in their careers. They have met five times with Isner taking home the win each time. The last meeting was at the Citi Open in Washington in July 2013. Isner rallied in that one after dropping the opening set tie break for a 6-7, 6-4, 6-4 win. All five of their career head to head clashes have come on outdoor hard courts. Baghdatis has taken a set off Isner in three of the five. At this point in the tournament, Baghdatis won’t be facing any big surprises. He has already seen the rocket righty serve of Sam Groth and the missile delivery from the lefty Gilles Muller. He knows what is coming today from the other side of the net. Mentally, I think that is a big plus for Baghdatis to start the match. The big question though is where his frustration level will be if he cannot get his racquet on as many Isner serves as he did with Muller yesterday.
This one goes down in the heat of the day in Atlanta at around 3 p.m. Fortunately for both, the humidity will not be as oppressive as it has been at times this week. Still, expect short points with neither man likely to want to play extended rallies. Isner has already said this week that is the sort of match that will favor him. What also favors him is his ridiculous record in tie breaks at the Atlanta Open. On top of being 19-3 in matches at this event, he was won 16 of 22 tie breaks. That includes three this week. He just has a knack for getting things done in Atlanta.
Isner wins in three sets