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Isner Sets Newport Final Clash With Hewitt

Newport, U.S.A.

Isner© Ben SolomonJohn Isner reached his third final in 2012 after beating Ryan Harrison in Newport.

Top seed John Isner is one match away from successfully defending a title for the first time in his career after easing past sixth seed Ryan Harrison 7-6(4), 6-3 in the semi-finals of the Campbell’s Hall Of Fame Tennis Championships in Newport Saturday.

“It’s feeling very similar to last year,” reflected Isner. “I wasn’t playing well and I was ranked in the 40s when I came here last year. I desperately needed some wins and confidence, and that’s exactly what I got.

“This year, it’s pretty much the same, although I’m ranked a lot higher than 46th. I didn’t play well in Europe. It’s as simple as that. I’m always most comfortable in the U.S., which is something I need to work on. This is where I play well the most.”

Isner hit 11 aces, won 92 per cent of his first serve points and did not face a break point in the 86-minute victory. He has defeated his American compatriot in both of their meetings, with their other encounter coming in Memphis two years ago. The 27 year old is aiming to win his first title in 2012, following runner-up efforts at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells (l. to Federer) and the ATP World Tour 250 event in Houston (l. to Monaco). He is 27-13 on the season.

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In Sunday’s final, Isner will look to notch his first win in three clashes with Lleyton Hewitt.

“I haven’t had much success at all against him. He’s definitely had my number you could say,” Isner said. “He doesn’t mind playing against really big servers because his return is one of the best in the game. With the way he returns, that puts pressure on his opponents, similar with the way I can serve. It’s going to be different styles out there but it should be a good match.” 

Hewitt reached his first final in more than two years, overcoming 2009 champion Rajeev Ram 6-4, 5-7, 6-2. He won 74 per cent of his first serve points and broke serve five times to seal the victory in two hours and 21 minutes. He evened his FedEx ATP Head 2 Head record against Ram to 1-1, avenging last year’s defeat to the American in Atlanta.

“I had to take my chances. I felt like I was in every one of his service games. It was a matter of those half chances,” said Hewitt. “Early on in the match, I had a lot of break points, but he came up with big first serves. I didn’t get a look at a second serve on a break point. It was a matter of if I got that small opportunity, with a second serve and a break point, I had to step up and take it.”

The 31-year-old Australian is bidding to win his 29th career title. He is 7-0 in grass-court finals, with his latest triumph coming in the 2010 Gerry Weber Open title match over Roger Federer in Halle.

Hewitt is appearing in Newport for the first time since 1998. He has dropped to World No. 233 in the South African Airways ATP Rankings after being sidelined for nearly four months after toe surgery.

“It’s about getting wins and putting yourself in a position. You doubt yourself more when you’re coming back from surgery,” Hewitt said. “You can’t just click your fingers and start moving and playing the way you want to play. And that can be frustrating.

“I have small goals at the moment. I’m trying to get my movement as close to 100 per cent as possible. And be to the point where I don’t have to think about it either. You come back from surgery and you think about everything. My whole mechanics have changed. So that’s taking a bit of time.”

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© Bill Kallenberg/BB&T Atlanta Open

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