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Isner beats Harrison to win fourth Atlanta Open title

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ATLANTA — John Isner rode an overpowering service game to his fourth Atlanta Open title and second consecutive ATP tournament, beating fellow American Ryan Harrison 7-6 (6), 7-6 (7) on Sunday before a friendly crowd at Atlantic Station.

Having won eight straight matches all in straight sets since bowing out in the second round at Wimbledon earlier this month, the second-seeded former University of Georgia star said he thoroughly enjoys playing in Atlanta, where’s he’s made the finals in seven of the eight tournaments.

He also won titles here in 2013-’15, and is 27-4 on the courts near his alma mater. The 32-year-old Isner won the Hall of Fame Open last week on grass in Newport, Rhode Island.

“This is always going to be my favorite time of year,” he said about the hard-court season. “I couldn’t ask for a better start, obviously . . . I landed on Monday, had a practice on Monday night and things felt good right away. I was on a good roll.”

The match followed service in the first set to force a tiebreaker.

Harrison, the fourth seed, rallied from a 2-4 deficit to level the breaker at 6-6 only to see Isner win with a sizzling forehand to the deep right corner.

Isner fired 23 aces to Harrison’s 10, but after 75 straight service games without being broken he was passed on the forehand side early in the second set to trail 2-0. That ball, at 40-30 Harrison, was originally called out but, after Harrison challenged a replay revealed that it just caught the line.

Isner broke back in the next game when Harrison sent what looked like an easy forehand long.

From there, the friendly foes remained on serve to reach another tiebreaker upon Isner’s 18th ace.

He attributed his winning streak partly to his loss at Wimbledon, where in the second round he fell 7-6 (5), 6-7 (5), 7-5, 6-7 (5), 3-6 to Dudi Sela of Israel.

“The match I lost to Dudi Sela was a blessing. I had a sit-down with my staff and hashed things out,” Isner said. “I was playing tentative and scared, not to win.

“I told myself that’s not the way to play . . . you have to learn from your losses, and I did that.”

Trailing 6-7 in the second tiebreaker, Isner whistled consecutive 137 mph aces, and then took the title when Harrison couldn’t get to a quick corner shot to his backhand.

After winning the first stop on the U.S. Open Series, Isner sounded like he’s ready for the year’s last Grand Slam event, although he’ll have to wait a little more than a month before the pros gather in New York for the Open.

“This winning streak is more a product of me playing well, not my opponents,” he said after capturing his 12th career ATP Tour title. “In my opinion, I could’ve beaten a lot of top 10 opponents. I have a level of confidence that’s hard to get.”

American brothers Bob and Mike Bryan won the doubles title with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Wesley Koolhof of The Netherlands and Artem Sitak of New Zealand.

Two-time champ Azarenka gets Australian Open wild card

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Two-time former champion Victoria Azarenka has been awarded a wild card for the Australian Open.

Azarenka, who won the Australian Open in 2012 and 2013, has been involved in a custody dispute involving her son Leo, who was born last Dec. 19.

She hasn’t competed anywhere since Wimbledon, where she lost to Simona Halep in the fourth round on July 10. The dispute with her former partner started shortly after Wimbledon ended.

Azarenka has played only six matches this year and is ranked 208th.

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said on Wednesday that every assistance would be provided to the former No. 1, adding “Vika’s current situation is obviously very difficult for her and we have reached out to offer any support we can.”

The Australian Open starts on Jan. 15.

Nadal, Muguruza win ITF player of the year awards

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LONDON — Rafael Nadal and Garbine Muguruza have won the International Tennis Federation’s player of the year awards.

At 31, Nadal becomes the oldest ITF men’s world champion after a season in which he won a 10th French Open and a third U.S. Open.

The Spaniard also became the oldest player to finish the year at No. 1 since the ATP rankings began in 1973.

Muguruza dropped only one set en route to her first Wimbledon title and finished the year at No. 2 behind Simona Halep.

“Becoming ITF world champion in such a competitive year is amazing for me,” said Muguruza, who is also Spanish. “(Nadal) is a great role model for all of us, so it is a great moment for tennis in Spain.”