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John Isner hits 64 aces in second-round win

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LONDON – John Isner hit 64 aces – 64! – and saved two match points while winning a five-setter at Wimbledon for only the second time in six tries.

You might have heard of the other such victory: It ended 70-68 in the final set.

In this much shorter instance of going the distance, the No. 9-seeded Isner came through 6-1, 6-4, 6-7 (6), 6-7 (3), 7-5 against Ruben Bemelmans, a Belgian qualifier ranked 104th, in a second-round match that ended Thursday after it was interrupted by rain the evening earlier.

“Certainly didn’t sleep like a baby last night,” the 33-year-old American said.

“All the stuff is running through my head. I’m half asleep, I’m not really asleep. We have all been there. You have something weighing on you,” he continued. “But fortunately, I didn’t feel, like, tired today. I still had a lot of adrenaline running through my body.”

Among the things that might have kept Isner tossing and turning:

– Isner held a match point at 6-5 in the third-set tiebreaker, but Bemelmans erased that with a winner, then added the next two points, too, to grab that set;

– he also dropped the fourth set in a tiebreaker;

– he had lost four five-setters in a row at Wimbledon, exiting the tournament that way in 2012, 2015, 2016 and 2017;

– he got into a heated and extended argument with chair umpire Mohamed Lahyani over a couple of replay reviews Isner was sure were incorrect, drawing a warning for the language he used.

“Now I’m going to get fined for that,” Isner said to Lahyani after apologizing, while also noting, “I said one bad word.”

They resumed Thursday at 4-3 in the fifth set, and Isner quickly was one point from defeat, trailing 5-4 while serving at 15-40. But he made both of those match points disappear via – what else? – aces, the first at 132 mph and the other at 144 mph.

“Just him keeping his nerves really well. Props to him that he produced those serves,” Bemelmans said. “There’s always a letdown when you miss those chances, but really, I didn’t miss them. He served them away. So it was not my fault. I could do nothing about it.”

Isner, who is based in Dallas, then broke in the next game and served out the victory, although not without casting aside one last break point, after double-faulting to 30-40. He closed this way: 141 mph service winner, 127 mph ace, 140 mph service winner.

That serve, Bemelmans said, is “tough on any surface.”

“Sometimes you’ve just got to bluff a little bit and choose a side, just to get in his head,” he added, “which I managed to do from the third set on.”

Enough to take that pair of tiebreakers, perhaps, but not to win a return game: Isner held all 27 times he served.

When a reporter told him how many aces Isner finished with, Bemelmans asked, “Is that a record?”

He then was reminded of that three-day, 11-hour marathon in the first round eight years ago – Isner hit 113; the man he beat, Nicolas Mahut, had 103 – and Bemelmans rolled his eyes and said, “Ah, of course.”

So Isner’s 64 slots come in as the third highest ace count at Wimbledon. At this point, though, he’s far more interested in doing something he’s never done: get to the fourth round at the grass-court Grand Slam tournament.

Isner is 0-3 in the third round so far, with each defeat in a fifth set.

“That, of course, weighs on you, especially at this event. It’s not just fifth set, in general; it’s this event,” said Isner, who faces 98th-ranked Radu Albot of Moldova on Friday. “So to finally come through on the good side of that feels amazing.”

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Bryan, Sock win ATP Finals doubles title

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LONDON — American pair Mike Bryan and Jack Sock saved a match point in the deciding tiebreaker to beat Pierre-Hughes Herbert and Nicolas Mahut 5-7, 6-1, 13-11 for their first ATP Finals doubles title together on Sunday.

Having failed to take advantage of five championship points during the first-to-10 match tiebreaker, Bryan and Sock then had to save one against their French opponents before finally closing out victory at the O2 Arena.

“It was a hell of a match,” Bryan said.

The 40-year-old Bryan has now won the season-ending tournament five times. He won four times with his usual partner – and brother – Bob, who has been out with an injured hip since May.

Sock and Bryan have dominated since teaming up, winning Wimbledon and the U.S. Open before finishing their season in style in London.

“It’s been a hell of a ride,” Bryan said. “This could be our last hoorah because Bob’s training back in Florida.”

After reaching the singles semifinals last year, Sock has endured a torrid season in that format, falling outside the top-100 ranked players. However, he became the first American since John McEnroe to add a doubles final appearance at the tournament to his last-four singles showing.

“This is special because it was a pretty bad year in singles,” Sock said. “This makes up for some of the low moments I’ve had.”

The French duo’s season is not over yet. Herbert and Mahut are part of their nation’s squad for the Davis Cup final against Croatia, which starts in Lille on Friday.

Ball boy flub taints Zverev’s ATP Finals win vs. Federer

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LONDON — After pulling off one of the biggest wins of his career, Alexander Zverev was left apologizing for an unforced error he didn’t make.

Zverev denied Roger Federer a shot at a 100th career title by beating the Swiss great 7-5, 7-6 (5) on Saturday to advance to the championship match at the ATP Finals.

Federer was leading the second-set tiebreaker 4-3 and in the ascendancy of a rally on a Zverev service point when a ball boy at the back of the court dropped a ball. Zverev immediately signaled for the point to be stopped and the umpire ordered the point to be replayed.

Zverev served an ace before going on to close out the match moments later.

“I want to apologize for the situation in the tiebreak,” said Zverev, who was booed by some members of the crowd during his on-court interview. “The ball boy dropped the ball so it’s in the rules that we have to replay the point.

“I’m a little bit upset about the whole situation because this is not how I wanted it to end.”

Zverev is the youngest player at 21 to reach the final since 2009 and the first from Germany since 1996. He will next face Novak Djokovic or Kevin Anderson, who are in the other semifinal later Saturday.

Federer, 37, was seeking a record-extending seventh title, but was unable to cope with the pressure created by Zverev’s power and precision at the O2 Arena.

“He (Zverev) apologized to me at the net,” Federer said. “I was like, `Buddy, shut up. You don’t need to apologize to me here. Congratulations on a great match and a great tournament so far. All the best for the finals.’ And you move on.”

An inspired series of shots earned Zverev the first break points of the match in the 12th game and Federer sent a forehand wide to fall behind.

Federer willed himself to a break for 2-1 in the second set, but Zverev quickly composed himself to hit straight back in the following game.

Zverev overcame the freak interruption to establish a 5-4 lead in the tiebreaker, and Federer netted the simplest of forehand volleys to bring up match point.

He saved the first, but Zverev confidently put away a backhand drive volley to set up a shot at the biggest title of his career and leave Federer waiting until next season for his 100th title.

“Overall, I’m happy how the season went,” said Federer, who picked up his 20th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open. “There’s many positives. So I’m excited for next season.”

Despite having reached only one Grand Slam quarterfinal, Zverev is the only active player outside the Big Four of Djokovic, Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray to have won three Masters titles. But victory at the tour’s flagship event would exceed those achievements.

“Novak right now is the best player in the world,” said Zverev, who lost to Djokovic in the round robin. “No matter who it’s going to be, I’ll be ready.”