ISNER STOPS HEWITT TO RETAIN NEWPORT TITLE
Top-seeded American John Isner successfully defended his grass-court title at the Campbell’s Hall Of Fame Tennis Championships with a 7-6(1), 6-4 victory over former World No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt on Sunday in Newport.
Isner takes home $68,220 and 250 South African Airways ATP Ranking points as the champion, while Hewitt earns $35,920 and 150 points.
“It feels very good,” said Isner. “It’s never easy coming to a tournament where in a previous year you won it. There’s a lot of pressure on you. You don’t do well, your ranking’s going to drop… I did well, I defended those points and I kept my ranking where it’s at. More importantly than that, I gained a lot of confidence from this week just as I did last year. I had a great, great summer last year. I hope to have much of the same this year.”
After both players failed to capitalise on their one break point chance in the opening set, Isner built a 4-0 lead in the tie-break and closed it out on his first of five set points.
He broke Hewitt in the third game of the second set, and after the Australian saved one match point on serve in the ninth game, Isner clinched the victory with his 16th ace after one hour and 32 minutes.
“I’m always very confident going into a tie-break,” stated Isner. “I kept my head this whole week very well. I honestly could’ve lost in the first round, I was down break points in the third set against a really big server. That’s how tennis is sometimes. I kept my head and I was able to persevere.”
Isner extended the American title streak at this ATP World Tour 250 tournament to four straight years. In 2011, he had broken the “Casino Curse” in Newport by becoming the first top seed to win the title since the inaugural edition in 1976.
The 27-year-old North Carolina native has now won four titles from 11 finals. He was contesting his third final on as many surfaces this season, following his runner-up finishes on hard court at the BNP Paribas Open (l. to Federer) and on clay in Houston (l. to Monaco).
Hewitt, 31, lost for the first time in a grass-court final (7-1). He was bidding to win his 29th singles title and first since 2010, when he defeated Roger Federer in Halle.
He had come to Newport at No. 233 in the South African Airways ATP Rankings, after being sidelined nearly four months due to toe surgery. He was making his sixth main draw appearance of the season and first in Newport since his debut in 1998.
“It’s done a lot of good [for my confidence],” Hewitt reflected. “A lot of positives have come out of this week. Grass is a tough surface to come back on after any kind of surgery, and especially foot surgery, where my movement is such a big thing, because on grass you’re in the wrong positions a lot of the time. You’ve got to have that confidence in your footwork.
“Even at Wimbledon, I didn’t feel totally comfortable with my footwork and it’s taken matches and practice and a lot of time over the last week-and-a-half here in Newport and I feel like that’s starting to come, which is a good thing, not only for the Olympics in a couple week’s time, but obviously looking forward to the US Open and the rest of the year.”