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Pro Media & News

American trio part of history-making effort in Acapulco

Victoria Chiesa | February 22, 2022

On Day 1 of this week's ATP 500 event in Acapulco, Mexico, John Isner, Stefan Kozlov and Jenson Brooksby played their part in tennis history.

 

Thanks to three first-round matches that featured the three Americans all lasting more than three hours, Monday's main draw play on the main stadium court began at 6 p.m. and finished at 4:55 a.m. local time on Tuesday—the latest finish in ATP history.

 

The mark eclipsed the previous record of 4:34 a.m. from the 2008 Australian Open, when Aussie Lleyton Hewitt closed the Rod Laver Arena night session by beating Marcos Baghdatis in Round 3. 

 

A comeback effort by Isner against Fernando Verdasco kicked off the evening. Trailing 7-5, 5-2, Isner saved a match point and went on to win the clash of veterans, 7-5, 6-7(4), 7-6(3), in 3 hours, 13 minutes— the first meeting between the two former Top 10 players in eight years. 

Photo credit: Getty Images

Kozlov and Grigor Dimitrov followed Isner and Verdasco on court, and the middle match of the three was already notable before a ball was struck. Dimitrov was initially slated to play Maxime Cressy, but after he was forced to withdraw due to a stomach issue, Kozlov took his place as a lucky loser. With the match already north of two hours deep in the second set, Kozlov was overcome by full-body cramps after breaking serve to lead, 7-6(8), 5-3—but found an incredible second wind after losing four straight games to drop the second set.

Kozlov saved six break points in the opening game of the decider, and secured the decisive break of Dimitrov's serve in the sixth game en route to a 7-6(8), 5-7, 6-3 victory that lasted 3 hours, 21 minutes. He also saved two set points in the opening set tiebreak.

 

“I just fought really hard and stayed focused at the end there," Kozlov said in victory. "Obviously, I had a chance to win in two sets and cramped up fully, and I had to give away a couple of games, but thankfully, I had a fighting spirit today and I just relied on it. I happened to play my best tennis towards the end.”

 

After what he called "the biggest win of [his] career," Kozlov could next face Rafael Nadal in the latter's first tournament since winning the Australian Open last month. In a cosmic set of circumstances, Kozlov revealed he was practicing with Nadal earlier in the evening on Monday, but had to cut it short when he got the call that he was to replace Cressy.

 

"Rafa, sorry for stopping practice today," Kozlov signed the camera after his win, sealed with a heart.

 

After the match, he added: “Today, I was totally expecting not to be playing. Now, I’ve got the biggest win of my career and I’m about to play Rafa Nadal ... I think he’s just a fantastic human being, I just have so much respect and I can’t wait to put on a show with him.”

 

The 21-time Grand Slam champion is seeded No. 4 in Acapulco, and faces another American in Denis Kudla on Tuesday evening. 

Brooksby was unfortunately unable to make it a sweep for Americans in the effort, as he was beaten by No. 2 seed and defending champion Alexander Zverev in last of the three matches, 3-6, 7-6(10), 6-2. The pair took the court at 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday in Acapulco, and though Brooksby had two match points in the second-set tiebreak, Zverev rallied for victory in 3 hours, 20 minutes. 

 

No. 7 seed Taylor Frtiz was victorious in much more straightforward fashion on Monday as a 6-3, 6-3 winner over France's Adrian Mannarino. In all, nine American men populate the main draw in Acapulco this week. 

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