Is big John Isner addicted to high drama matches?

John Isner made a winning return to the men’s tour with a hard-fought triumph against Gilles Muller at the Atlanta Tennis Championships.

Isner wrote himself into tennis folklore at SW19 last month by defeating Frenchman Nicolas Mahut in an 11-hour, 183-game epic, and by any other yardstick would have considered his three-set victory against Luxembourg qualifier Muller a decent workout.

The giant American demonstrated the fighting spirit that served him so well in the first-round encounter at the All England Club by saving match points in both the second and third sets before prevailing 4-6 7-6 (8/6) 7-6 (9/7).

The 6ft 9in Isner fired 33 aces to 29 from Muller in a big-hitting encounter, and the former University of Georgia student admitted he was indebted to the partisan crowd for getting him across the line despite failing to break his opponent’s serve.

“The match was pretty ugly to be honest, but I was proud how I competed and the crowd helped in that regard,” said Isner, who is seeded second for this event and was handed a bye in the first round.

“I was down break points a couple of times in the second set – they were kind of baby match points with the way he was serving.”

He added: “I hadn’t seen a live ball in quite some time and Gilles was never going to give me rhythm with his lefty serve.

“I felt I was shedding the rust off in the second and third sets. I will only keep getting better. As a tennis player you need a lot of matches to play your best.

“This was one of the biggest wins of the year.”

Fellow Americans Michael Russell, Taylor Dent and Mardy Fish also advanced to the quarter-finals with second-round wins.

Russell set up a last-eight clash with Isner by defeating German Rainer Schuettler 1-6 6-2 7-5, while Dent progressed by upsetting fourth-seeded Argentinian Horacio Zeballos 4-6 6-2 6-0.

Dent will next meet Fish after the sixth seeded dispatched another American, Robby Ginepri, 6-1 7-5.

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