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Newport ‘breakers: Isner beats Bonzi to reach semifinals, Auger-Aliassime goes down to Kubler

John Isner edged Benjamin Bonzi 7-6(2), 6-7(6), 7-6(5) in Newport.

By Ricky Dimon

All three Thursday’s Hall of Fame Open singles matches–one a continuation following darkness on Wednesday night–required decisive sets. Two of three were decided by tiebreakers.

One of the winners was a usual suspect in such situations: John Isner. No stranger to surviving marathon matches throughout his career, Isner held off Benjamin Bonzi 7-6(2), 6-7(6), 7-6(5) during quarterfinal action. The 37-year-old American needed eight match points to prevail after squandering a 6-3 lead in the second-set tiebreaker and almost blowing a 6-1 advantage in the third-set ‘breaker. Bonzi delivered an especially remarkable backhand pass to save a sixth match point, but a backhand error by the Frenchman at 5-6 finally sent Isner across the finish line.

“I got off to a good start in the (final) tiebreak and I needed every single bit of it, obviously,” the four-time champion reflected. “Eventually I was able to win.

“That was a crazy match, for sure. From 6-1 up to 6-5 after losing two serves, after that passing shot, I was thinking that this probably is not my day, truthfully. He played very well at 6-3 in the second-set tiebreak; it was too good from him. I was able to hit a good return somehow, because I was all discombobulated at 6-5.”

Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada lost to Jason Kubler. (Photo by Thomas F. Starke/Getty Images)

Both Felix Auger-Aliassime and Jason Kubler had reason to be discombobulated given the unique circumstances of their second-round contest. It was postponed right before the finish line on Wednesday night, with Kubler serving to stay in the match at 5-6 in the third.

When they came back out on Thursday afternoon, the Aussie immediately faced a break point–and match point. Kubler saved it in a long rally, which ended when Auger-Aliassime blasted a backhand well long. The underdog ended up forcing a ‘breaker and won it for a 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(4) victory.

“I was pretty nervous, to be honest,” the 29-year-old admitted. “Luckily the last couple months I’ve been doing so much work on my serve. I was thinking about all the stuff I’ve done the last couple of months and that’s what gave me a bit of confidence.

“(I’m) just very fortunate to be in this position. Today could have gone either way…. (I’m) fortunate that it went my way today, but I’m just happy that I stuck in and tried my best for the whole time.”

It’s Isner vs. Maxime Cressy in the semis, while Kubler will be back in action for Friday’s quarterfinals against James Duckworth.

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