Isner Ends Del Potro's London Dreams
But after eliminating the 13th seed, Juan Martin del Potro, 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-4, in the quarter-finals of the Rolex Paris Masters, the 32-year-old is within two matches of turning his London dreams into a reality.
"It was very satisfying and I was confident going into this match," Isner said. "I took the court knowing that I've been playing pretty well. And also playing with a bit of house money after yesterday, being down 5-2 in the third set [against Grigor Dimitrov]. I sort of escaped yesterday and was given some new life today and I think I took advantage of it."
The American can book his spot at the year-end finale by winning the title in Paris, just a year after advancing to the final at the same event. Isner next plays qualifier Filip Krajinovic, who is competing in his first ATP World Tour semi-final after top seed Rafael Nadal withdrew from the tournament on Friday due to a right knee injury.
"Going into this tournament I wasn't thinking about it at all. I was sort of thinking about what football games I'm going to watch back home when this tournament is over," said Isner of his London chances. "But now, certainly I'm not going to lie to you guys, it's in my mind now. It would be great to qualify for that."
It was a stunning defeat for Del Potro, who is now eliminated from contention for the final spot at the Nitto ATP Finals. If the Argentine was able to oust Isner, he would have clinched that final position. Instead, Del Potro’s rapid charge up the Emirates ATP Race To London standings since starting the US Open in 47th on the list came up just short.
The decisive break in the third set came out of nowhere. Del Potro hit what was called an ace at 1-1, 40/15. However, Isner correctly challenged the call and after some mistakes from Del Potro, the American secured the break as the Argentine missed an inside-out forehand both wide and long. Isner never faced a break point, and sealed his berth in the semi-finals with an unreturnable serve out wide.
Isner narrowed the gap in the pair's FedEx ATP Head2Head series to 3-6.
There are only three players still in contention for the final spot in the year-end finale. Pablo Carreno Busta currently occupies that position, but Isner or compatriot Jack Sock would overtake the Spaniard by claiming the title.
Isner and Krajinovic have never played in a tour-level match. Their only meeting came at an ATP Challenger Tour event in Lubbock, Texas, nine years ago. The American defeated Krajinovic in straight sets, when the Serbian was just 16.
Top Seeds Upset In Possible London Preview
Fans at the Rolex Paris Masters got a sneak preview of the doubles competition at the Nitto ATP Finals on Friday, with seven of the eight tandems in the Paris quarter-finals having secured their berths in the year-end finale at The O2 from 12-19 November.
They will next face the No. 1 team in the Emirates ATP Race To London, second-seeded Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo, who defeated the only non-London qualifiers in Friday’s quarter-finals, Feliciano Lopez and Marc Lopez. The Polish-Brazilian duo took the match 6-3, 6-3.
On the other half of the draw, seventh seeds Ivan Dodig and Marcel Granollers continued their strong week by upsetting the top seeds, Henri Kontinen and John Peers, 6-3, 6-4, in 70 minutes, avenging a loss they suffered against the same pair in Shanghai. Dodig and Granollers clinched the final spot in the Nitto ATP Finals field on Wednesday.
The Croatian-Spanish team will confront the reigning US Open champions, Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau, who beat third-seeded Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan, 6-1, 7-5, in 63 minutes. While Dodig/Granollers won the matchup at Roland Garros, Rojer/Tecau earned revenge in the Round of 16 at the US Open.