Isner wins first match at Pilot Pen

August 22, 2007 04:07 PM
Associated Press Writer

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) -- American rookie John Isner waited through nine hours of rain, then beat Benjamin Becker 6-3, 6-4 in 57 minutes Tuesday night in the first round of the Pilot Pen.

Fan favorite James Blake, who grew up in nearby Fairfield, also won his first match in straight sets, 6-4, 6-2, over Arnaud Clement of France in front of a rowdy group of fans known as the "J-Block'' who showed up for the late match, despite the weather.

There were nine service breaks in the match, six by the third-seeded Blake, who broke Clement in the final game of each set. Clement was visibly upset by the numerous shouts from the pro-Blake crowd of 6,785, many coming as he was about to serve.

"(It was) maybe a little much tonight,'' Blake said. "He's a player that takes a little while in between points, and I don't know if he realized that they might not be the best idea against them, to give them that much time to get ramped up and get excited between every point.''

Blake, who lost in the finals Sunday in Cincinnati to Roger Federer, said he likes the way he's playing heading into the US Open next week.

"I feel like I'm playing better than in 2005, when I won here,'' he said.

Isner, the 6-foot-9 former University of Georgia standout had 14 aces, and was seldom in danger of being broken by the much smaller (5-10) German.

Isner had only two breaks of his own, going up 3-1 in the first set and 2-1 in the second, and seemed content after those to rely on his service game.

"That's something I've always done actually when I get a break, I kind of ease up and it's not good,'' Isner said. "Maybe I could afford to do that in college, but definitely not at this level.''

His serve, which topped out at 132 mph on a damp night with temperatures in the mid 50s, drew several "oohs'' and "aahs'' from the crowd. So did a volley in the final game, when Isner stretched his entire length at the net to reach what appeared to be a clear passing shot.

"Whenever it's colder like that, I'm not going to be able to pop the ball as much,'' he said. "I usually hit it a bit faster than that.''

Isner and Becker were originally scheduled to play Monday night, but that match was rescheduled to Tuesday morning, and then rescheduled again when rain wiped out the entire day session.

That included Lindsay Davenport's return to professional tennis. Her doubles match was bumped to Wednesday.

Davenport gave birth to her first child in June and has not played since last September.

"I had to go Lindsay and the doubles match and say, 'Your match is not essential,''' tournament director Anne Worcester said. "We have to get the first-round matches played.''

Davenport and doubles partner Lisa Raymond were rescheduled to play Cara Black and Liezel Huber on Wednesday afternoon, and the match was moved to the grandstand court, so that Isner could play at the same time on stadium court against David Ferrer.

Isner, who made it to the finals in Washington earlier this month, is playing in just his fourth ATP tournament.

"I've been playing a lot of matches on stadium courts these last couple tournaments,'' he said. "I guess it is just kind of the Washington effect. But I definitely didn't think they would boot Davenport to the grandstand court. That's pretty cool though.''

In the women's draw Tuesday night, Sania Mirza of India beat Anabel Medina Gerrigues of Spain 6-3, 6-3 in a match that had been suspended after one game Monday because of the weather.

Mirza said the delay seemed to help her.

"I was actually not feeling very well yesterday, so maybe it was a blessing in disguise that the rain came down,'' she said.