20
Jan
12

With Isner’s loss, it’s the first time since 1973 that no U.S. men have reached round of 16 at the Australian Open!

And it gets worse from there — in 1973, no U.S. men entered the Australian Open.

Feliciano Lopez of Spain held off Isner’s charge before 10,000 cheering spectators and ushered the 6-foot 9-inch American to the sidelines, 6-3, 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-7 (0), 6-1. “For me, it was a fantastic match,” Lopez told reporters. “In the fifth set, I hit a fantastic passing shot. I’m very happy with my performance.” In the final game, Lopez had double-faulted on the doorstep of match point, but then Isner botched a backhand service return that gave the Spaniard a second chance.

Repeatedly stymied by Lopez’s strong serve, Isner, seeded 16th, had spent much of the early stages of the match with shoulders slumped and head lowered. By the middle of the fourth set, he had hit more than 41 unforced errors and 42 forced errors, a signal that the Spaniard was pressing the points more forcefully. Leading 3-2 in the fourth set, Isner called for a medical timeout. A trainer applied a bandage to a toe on Isner’s right foot as Chair Umpire Pascal Maria of France looked down, smiling and chatting with Isner as the trainer worked. Despite his respite, Isner’s chances of breaking Lopez’s stride seemed to diminish steadily. The Spaniard won his serve at love to tie the score at 5-5 and again at 6-6. But in the key tiebreaker, Isner jumped off to a 5-0 lead, scoring on two Lopez errors and three of his own winners, including an overhead smash that bounded far beyond Lopez’s reach, and a half-volley winner that shot into the backhand corner. Suddenly, Isner’s hangdog demeanor evaporated. He began racing from side to side and charging the net, no longer consulting his shoelaces in despair. Lopez seemed stunned, yielding a sixth and seventh point on his own errors, and walking with his head down to his chair in the changeover. Isner seemed energized, ready to claim another cliffhanger. But there were clues that he might not succeed.

By the start of the fifth set, Lopez, seeded 18th, had served so effectively that he had lost only a single break point, a statistic that never changed over the 3 hours and 26 minutes of the match.

 

 

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