By Rick Limpert, Special to BB&T Atlanta Open
ATLANTA – John Isner took to the Stadium Court on Sunday afternoon at the 2014 BB&T Atlanta Open singles final with three things on his mind.
For one, he was trying to win his ninth career ATP World Tour title and defend 250 ATP points that he earned by winning in Atlanta last year. He also knows he has a lot of tennis ahead of him for the next 45 days and a win could serve as a launching pad to help raise his ranking back into the Top 10. Finally, with a heat index at or near 100 degrees, it was crucial that he take advantage of his height and serve to keep the points short, allowing him the best opportunity to win.
His opponent Dudi Sela had one thing on his agenda: How would he return Isner's serve on the high bouncing Stadium Court at Atlantic Station?
While the big-serving American and defending champion was able to handle the three issues he was facing coming into Sunday's final, Sela was left guessing trying to return Isner's first and second serves throughout a 6-3, 6-4 loss.
Unlike his first three matches, the former University of Georgia All-American was able to get an early break of serve to go up 2-0.
"Right from the beginning I felt great on the court,” explained Isner. "Getting that early lead helped a lot. I was able to get up early and I was serving first as well, so I was playing from ahead pretty much the whole match."
Getting an early lead is always a good thing for Isner. In six of his nine ATP World Tour wins, Isner was able to gain a break in the first set. "I like that situation a lot," said Isner.
Sela noticed that Isner was more relaxed and picked up his game after he broke early. "It changed his game," said Sela. "He was able to go for it."
The second set was more of the same, but with Isner breaking Sela in the fourth game. Isner saved one break point late in the second set and closed out the match with a 139 mph ace down the center – claiming yet another Atlanta title and gaining confidence heading into the rest of the summer.