AUCKLAND, New Zealand — Two-time champion John Isner beat defending champion Tennys Sandgren 7-6 (3), 6-7 (1), 6-3 Wednesday in an all-American second round match as the ASB Classic.
The only previous meeting between the pair, in Stockholm in 2018, went to three tie-breaks. Fourth-seeded Isner finally bucked that trend when achieved the first service break of the match in the fifth game of the third set and went to win the set in 28 minutes.
“Of course I’m happy about that,” Isner said. “It’s always a tough match playing Tennys. He does a lot of things really, really well on the court and when he and I match up it’s inevitably going to be close and that was the case today.
“I’ve very happy to get through and get through in somewhat comfortable fashion.”
Isner won the tournament in 2010 – his first ATP title – and again in 2014 for his only tournament wins outside the United States. While he has returned regularly, the last few years have not been as kind.
“I’ve always been a pretty slow starter so I’m very happy to win this match today,” he said. “I’ve lost my first match here the last three years I think. So I’ve bucked that trend in 2020 and I’m very happy about I hope I can play better tomorrow.”
The day didn’t start well for Sandgren. Because the Auckland tournament is being held a week later than usual the points Sandgren won last year, and which he would have defended, have expired and he dropped 33 ranking spots to No. 101.
But he started the match stronger than Isner. The 20th-ranked Isner was expected to dominate on serve but it was Sandgren whose serve was more formidable in the first set: he won his first two service games to love and dropped only three points on serve before the set went to a tiebreak.
A medical emergency in the bleachers caused a 10 minute delay before the tiebreaker began and Sandgren appeared to lose momentum. He double faulted on the first point and couldn’t recover, conceding the set.
He still looked out of form at the start of the second set, going to five deuces before winning his first service game while Isner held comfortably, steadily increasing his tally of aces.
The set again went to a tiebreak in which Sandgren was suddenly dominant, winning 7-1 to level the match.
Isner finally won a service break in the fifth game of the second set after a pivotal rally which lasted 26 shots, the longest of the match. He broke again in the ninth game to seal the match in 2-1/4 hours.
Organizers scheduled 18 matches on Wednesday, including first and second round singles, to make up for time lost the day before when only two matches were completed due to rain.
The 38-year-old Spaniard Feliciano Lopez was among players who had to play two matches on the same cay and in his second he upset top-seeded Fabio Fognini of Italy 3-6, 6-4, 6-4.
Lopez was on court 2-1/2 hours for a 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4 first round win over compatriot Pablo Andujar and returned to beat Fognini in just under two hours.
“Not bad for a 38-year-old,” Lopez said. “Because it rained yesterday I had to play two matches today.
“The first match was tough but I honestly think it was very helpful for me in order to play against Fabio because this morning was my first match this year so far, it was 2-1/2 hours and that was very helpful for me.
“Without that match I don’t think I could have played the way I played against Fabio.”