ISNER MAKING HISTORY,
ADVANCES TO ROME SEMIFINALS
Ashley Marshall | May 19, 2017
John Isner continues to show that his big-serving game can be a successful tactic on clay.
The 6-foot-10 American defeated Marin Cilic, 7-6, 2-6, 7-6, on Friday to advance to the semifinals of the Italian Open in Rome. Isner knocked off the No. 6 seed behind a powerful serving performance that saw him send down 21 aces and save his best moments for a pair of tiebreaks, which have become a calling card of the 32-year-old.
It marks the first time Isner has been this deep at an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event on clay, and he became the first American to reach the final four in Rome since Andy Roddick progressed to the semifinals in 2008.
"It doesn't matter what the surface, I feel I can play well on all surfaces,” Isner told the ATP. "Nothing changes for me. Whether I'm playing on grass, hard or clay, it's the same recipe. ADVERTISEMENT I'm going to serve and hold my serve a lot. I can hold my serve in mud out there, really. So I like my serve no matter the surface. It just so happens to be that this week I'm sort of putting it together. Clay can be a great surface for me, but I also can play poorly on clay.”
Isner, currently No. 24 in the ATP rankings, will play No. 16 seed Alexander Zverev on Saturday for a place in the final.
With back-to-back wins over world No. 3 Stan Wawrinka – a three-time major winner and 2015 French Open champ – and Cilic – the 2014 US Open winner – Isner has defeated former Grand Slam champions in consecutive matches at the same tournament for the first time in four years and just the second time in his career.
At the 2013 Cincinnati Masters, Isner toppled Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin del Potro in the quarterfinals and semifinals of the US Open Series event.
Clay has traditionally been Isner’s weakest surface, with his only notable successes coming in Houston, where he reached the final in 2010 and 2012 and won the title – his lone trophy on clay – in 2013.
Isner is not the only American to find success on the red clay of Rome this week. Venus Williams will play Garbiñe Muguruza in the quarterfinals later on Friday, with a spot against either Karolina Pliskova or Elina Svitolina in the semifinals at stake.
Williams, a French Open finalist in 2002, won Rome in 1999 and is one of five American women to contest the championship match in the Italian capital in the past 20 years. Serena Williams is a four-time winner, Monica Seles lifted the trophy in 2000 and Jennifer Capriati (2004) and Madison Keys (2016) have finished as runners-up.