ISNER, TIAFOE ADVANCE
TO WIMBLEDON THIRD ROUND
Ashley Marshall | July 5, 2018
It took almost four hours split over two days, but John Isner booked his place in the third round of Wimbledon after serving his way past Ruben Bemelmans on Thursday.
Isner (pictured above) smacked 64 aces, including a pair to save two match points in the fifth set, before serving out the match to complete a dramatic 6-1, 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 7-5 triumph.
The win moves Isner into Wimbledon's round of 32 for the fourth time in five years. And with seeds crashing out everywhere you look, the potential for a deep run in the second week becomes more and more likely with every win.
The 6-foot-10 ninth seed saved all three break points he faced in defeating the world No. 104 from Belgium to set up a third-round encounter against Radu Albot of Moldova.
Should Isner win that match, he would face either No.
31 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas or qualifier Thomas Fabbiano in the fourth round. And looking one step past that, only one of No. 13 seed Milos Raonic, world No. 82 Guido Pella, No. 103 Mackenzie McDonald or No. 171 Dennis Novak would stand in the way of Isner and a maiden Slam semifinal.
Isner rolled through the first two sets on Wednesday for the loss of just five games. Bemelmans claimed both the third and fourth sets in tiebreaks, despite not creating a break point on the Isner serve, and all of a sudden, a seemingly routine victory was headed to a fifth set.
Bemelmans saved a break point at 1-1, as the first nine games went with serve. Isner saved two match points at 4-5, both with aces, when the pair returned to the court Thursday following a rain delay late Wednesday evening, before breaking the Belgian in the 11th game to establish a 6-5 lead.
Bemelmans had one final chance to break back at 30-40 on the Isner serve, but the American snuffed out the threat before serving it out on his first match point.
Also advancing on Day 4 in southwest London was rising American Frances Tiafoe, who beat Julien Benneteau of France, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2, in two hours, 17 minutes on Court 15.
The 20-year-old converted six of seven break points against the 36-year-old veteran to reach the third round of a major for the first time in his career.
Currently No. 52 in the world, Tiafoe improves on his second-round appearance in his Wimbledon debut from 12 months ago to set up a third-round match against either Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus or Karen Khachanov of Russia.
First-round doubles action also continued Thursday, with Bethanie Mattek-Sands making her return to Wimbledon for the first time since a horrific knee injury in the second round last year ended her season.
Mattek-Sands teamed up with familiar doubles partner Lucie Safarova to beat No. 16 seeds Lyudmyla Kichenok and Alla Kudryavtseva, 7-6, 7-5. It was an emotional return for the American on Court 5, across the opposite side of Center Court from Court 17 where she fell 364 days ago.
Also in action Thursday, reigning Wimbledon girls’ junior champion Claire Liu pushed 2016 US Open champion Angelique Kerber to three sets in a tight 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 loss on Court 12, while Jared Donaldson fell agonizingly short of completing a remarkable comeback against No. 31 seed Tsitsipas of Greece.
Donaldson rallied from two sets down and established a 3-1 lead in the fifth set before falling, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 4-6, 6-3. Elsewhere, Sachia Vickery lost to No. 15 seed Elise Mertens of Belgium, 6-1, 6-3; Sofia Kenin lost to qualifier Vitalia Diatchenko, 6-4, 6-1; and Belinda Bencic of Switzerland saved four match points in beating Alison Riske, 1-6, 7-6, 6-2.