ISNER ADVANCE TO THIRD ROUND
Ashley Marshall | May 31, 2018
A trio of Americans moved on to the third round of the French Open on Day 5 in Paris, but none of the victories came without a fight.
Serena Williams continued her comeback with a three-set win over Ashleigh Barty of Australia, and both John Isner and Steve Johnson needed to rally from a set down to secure their places in the Round of 32.
In Thursday's nightcap on Court Philippe-Chatrier, Williams was a set and a break down before coming back to defeat No. 17 seed Barty, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
The 23-time Grand Slam women’s singles champion showed a marked improvement from her opening match against Kristyna Pliskova, in addition to plenty of the firepower and determination that have become synonymous with her storied career.
The turning point came in the second game of the second set with Barty serving to consolidate the early break.
Williams dug deep and broke right back, climbing out of the small hole and winning the next three games for good measure as she bounced back to send the second-round match to a decider.
A lone break in Barty’s second service game was the decisive factor and Barty rarely looked like staging a comeback despite only being down the one break of serve. Williams failed to capitalize on her first match point with the Aussie serving at 3-5, but she served it out to love in the very next game to punch her ticket to the third round.
Williams will now face world No. 11 Julia Goerges on Saturday after the German squeaked past Alison Van Uytvanck, 7-5, 7-6, as the last remnants of evening light fell across Roland Garros.
In the men's draw, Isner rallied to beat Horacio Zeballos, 6-7, 7-6, 7-6, 6-2, in a match that had all the hallmarks you’ve come to expect from an Isner contest, and Johnson also came from a set down to beat Jan-Lennard Struff, 4-6, 7-6, 6-2, 6-2.
Isner had five set points with Zeballos serving at 4-5 in the opening set, plus a sixth in the tiebreak, before the Argentine took the first set by winning four of the final five points. It marked the 71st time in 102 Grand Slam main-draw matches that Isner has played at least one tiebreak in a match.
A lone mini break in the second-set tiebreak got Isner back to level ground, and the top-ranked U.S. man forged into the lead by winning seven of the nine points in the tiebreak that decided the third set.
Zeballos dropped serve to open the fourth, and Isner consolidated a double break to establish a 4-0 lead. Zeballos was unable to make any impact on the booming Isner serve the rest of the way and the American wrapped up the match on his first match point to close out the two-hour, 53-minute victory.
In addition to 38 aces, the staple of Isner’s game, the American also never faced a break point, such was his dominance with the ball on his racquet. But outside of the five break points he saved in the first set, world No. 103 Zeballos only faced two break points himself, one in each of the first and third games of the fourth, which Isner capitalized on each time to seize the momentum.
Isner will now play Pierre-Hughes Herbert in the Round of 32, after the Frenchman defeated countryman Jeremy Chardy, 9-7 in the fifth set.
The only other American man left in the draw, Johnson was similarly pushed to four sets against world No. 71 Struff, ranked 25 places below him in the rankings.
Struff took the opening set before the American restored parity with a second-set tiebreak. A pair of breaks bookended the third set and Johnson replicated the feat in the fourth before servng out the match at the first opportunity.
It sends Johnson (pictured above) into the third round of Roland Garros for the second consecutive year and for the third time in his career. It also leaves him one win away from matching his best run at a major since he made the fourth round of Wimbledon in 2016.
Next up for Johnson is No. 3 seed Marin Cilic, a player who has beaten Johnson all four times they have met, including at the third round of Wimbledon last summer.
Combined with second-round wins from Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens on Wednesday, the U.S. has five players through to the third round.