Zack Mason/BB&T Atlanta Open
In an encounter that seemed to epitomize the age-old "David VS Goliath" scenario, the towering John Isner prevailed over the relatively diminutive Christian Harrison in a gritty score of 76(9)-64-75. Though Isner was considered the overwhelming favorite heading into this clash of Americans, Harrison was quick to dispel any notion he wasn’t prepared to fight to the bitter end, starting strongly by pushing Isner in the latter’s very first service game.
In typical Isner fashion, however, the first set remained break-less as John struggled to reign in his impressive power and Christian meanwhile proved unable to handle Isner’s booming first serve. Indeed, the ensuing tiebreak served as a continuation of the set’s pattern of play: John knocks down cannon after cannon, while Christian’s ground stroke consistency outlasts that of the big man.
Christian was the first to draw blood in the 1st
set tiebreak, scoring the mini-break at 5-4 and following it up with a 6-4 lead. A brilliant forehand winner enabled John to save the first set point, while a timely serve leveled the breaker at 6-6. Though Isner would himself have a set point at 7-6, Harrison
displayed tremendous maturity to thwart John’s initial chance to close out the rubber. Eventually, a nifty drop volley at 9-9 followed by a monstrous kick serve sealed the first set for Isner as Harrison
could do no more than watch his backhand return sail wildly long.
Plucky as ever, Harrison refused to back down in the following set, taking advantage of both the steadily mounting errors bleeding from John’s racquet and the rising winner count off of his own backhand. Finally, Harrison
’s intelligent mix of dogged consistency and precision delivered him to set point, upon which he immediately capitalized.
It now seemed that perhaps David would topple Goliath after all.
The third and final set played out much like the first, with both players consistently holding serve. Though plagued by inconsistency for much of the match, Isner’s game noticeably cleaned up towards the latter stages of the third set, as he attempted to instill more controlled aggression on his forehand side and storm the net. This change in tactics was especially evident at 5-5, as John won a pair of net points during which he skillfully handled Harrison
’s attempts to pass him.
Christian had fought valiantly throughout the entirety of the match, often managing to conceal the fact that he is only 19. However, break point down at 5-5, he finally appeared to blink; his usual consistency abandoned him as he dumped a backhand into the net. With John up 6-5 and ready to serve for the match, Harrison
’s up-hill battle appeared even steeper than before.
saving three match points, Isner’s reliably thunderous serve would prove too strong to overcome. After all, Christian was up against a man who’s tremendous serve enabled him to emerge from tennis history’s longest ever match victorious.
With this result one thing is certain: Christian Harrison should be incredibly proud of how close he came to toppling a former top ten player. However, the fact that the match’s average shot per rally was 2.1 strokes indicates this encounter was always in the hands of tennis’ premier one-two puncher, John Isner.