10sBalls.com • TennisBalls.com

Isner–the Atlanta GOAT–Beats Nakashima for 16th Title Overall and Sixth at Tournament

John Isner of the USA reacts with the champion’s trophy after defeating Brandon Nakashima of the USA in the men’s singles final match of the Truist Atlanta Open men’s ATP tennis tournament at Atlantic Station in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, 01 August 2021. EPA-EFE/ERIK S. LESSER.

By Ricky Dimon

Due to both the Covid-19 pandemic and fatherhood, John Isner has not played much tennis in the past two seasons. And when he has played, the results have not been spectacular.

Unsurprisingly, however, the Truist Atlanta Open proved to be just what the doctor ordered for Isner.

The 36-year-old American returned to Atlanta following last year’s cancellation of the tournament and promptly triumphed again–for the sixth time–at his old stomping grounds, beating Brandon Nakashima on Sunday evening. Appearing in his ninth final in the 11th installment of the event, Isner prevailed 7-6(8), 7-5 after one hour and 56 minutes.

Isner’s most successful setting also helped avenge a loss to Nakashima last week in Los Cabos. The 19-year-old did not even require a tiebreaker to beat his compatriot in straight sets, but as anyone could have expected Isner’s serve was a whole different beast in Atlanta.

Nakashima could not come up with a single break—the same fate suffered by four of Isner’s five opponents this week. However, the former University of Virginia standout did well to hold his own serve the entire way in the first set. Isner actually had to save one set point while serving at 5-6, which he snuffed out with a big serve followed by a forehand winner. The world No. 35 fought off another set point in the ensuing tiebreaker with a clutch forehand volley before taking it 10-8.

In the second set it was Isner who had all of the chances. The sixth seed went up triple-match point with Nakashima serving at 4-5, 0-40 only to see the teenager save all of them and eventually hold serve in a fashion that belied his youth. Facing similar pressure at 5-6, however, Nakashima finally cracked. The world No. 115 missed out on three game points that would have forced another tiebreaker and then double-faulted on Isner’s fifth championship point.

For Nakashima, it was a second consecutive runner-up finish. He lost to Cameron Norrie in the Las Cabos final last weekend.

Winner John Isner (L) of the USA poses with runner up Brandon Nakashima (R) of the USA after Isner defeated Nakashima in the men’s singles final match of the Truist Atlanta Open men’s ATP tennis tournament at Atlantic Station in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, 01 August 2021. EPA-EFE/ERIK S. LESSER

“It was two great weeks for me, for sure,” the San Diego, Calif. native reflected. “It definitely gives me a lot of confidence in my game knowing that I could hang with these top guys and produce good tennis in back-to-back weeks. Leading into the next few tournaments and the U.S. Open, I know that I’m playing well and I know I could make deep runs there.”

For Isner, it’s a 16th ATP title overall. He is also the only active ATP player other than the Big 3–Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic–to hold at least six titles at a single tournament.

“This tournament has meant everything for my career,” Isner assured. “It’s absolutely amazing.”

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.