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Isner Sets Desert Rematch With Djokovic

Indian Wells, U.S.A.

Isner © Getty ImagesJohn Isner will face Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals.

Top American John Isner set a semi-final rematch with World No. 2 Novak Djokovic at the BNP Paribas Open after defeating Latvian Ernests Gulbis 7-6(4), 7-6(3) on Friday.

Isner prevailed against Djokovic in a third set tie-break two years ago in Indian Wells to reach his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 final. The Serbian had been the World No. 1 and defending champion at the time.

"Two years ago I took the court believing I could win that match, so it's much of the same here in 2014," said Isner. "But, I think I can draw a little bit from that in 2012. It's a good situation for me. I'd like to have the crowd on my side like I did two years ago. All that it helps me so much. It's an advantage for me I think to play here at home. But at the same time, it's going to be very tough."

By reaching the semi-finals, the 28-year-old North Carolina native is projected to break back into the Top 10 of the Emirates ATP Rankings for the first time since September 2012. He had reached a career-high No. 9 ranking that April, following his runner-up finish to Roger Federer in Indian Wells.

Isner saved one set point at 5-6, 30/40 prior to a tie-break, and secured the mini-break to go up 5-3. He finished with two big first serves. Isner hit six aces and won 90 per cent of his first service points to win the set in 50 minutes. Gulbis did little wrong.

Isner dropped serve for just the second time during the tournament in the opening game of the second set. Isner attempted to break back, but Gulbis started striking his serve with greater fluency and extra power. Having saved five break points, Gulbis slipped up when serving for the set at 5-4. Isner’s confidence was restored.

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"Seems like I always have a little bit more adrenaline in those situations, and that was certainly the case out there today," said Isner. "I certainly hit my biggest serves in those tie-breakers. I think especially the second set one I was going after it with everything I had. They found their mark, too. Helped a lot."

Gulbis was looking to reach a Masters 1000 semi-final for a second time. He had reached a career-high No. 18 Emirates ATP Ranking last month after winning the Marseille title with Top 10 wins over Richard Gasquet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

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