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TENNIS

John Isner holds it together in tiebreaker

Isner defeats Marcos Baghdatis to reach quarterfinals of L.A. Open

July 30, 2009|Bill Brink

John Isner needed to finish off Marcos Baghdatis immediately.

Isner already had lost four match points, and in the second-set tiebreaker, he'd just rolled his left ankle chasing a shot and was down 11-10.

But Isner pulled himself together Wednesday and won, 6-3, 7-6 (11), to advance to the quarterfinals of the L.A. Tennis Open at UCLA.

"I was extremely lucky," Isner said.

With the score tied at 10 in the tiebreaker, Isner tried to change direction to reach a ball when he rolled his ankle. He went down but soon was up and walking.

"I thought it was worse than it was," he said.

When play resumed, Baghdatis had an unforced error returning Isner's second serve, something Isner said Baghdatis hadn't done all match, to tie the score at 11. Isner then hit a forehand winner into the corner, which Baghdatis challenged, but the replay showed it was in.

"I hit a forehand as hard as I could and closed my eyes and it went in," Isner said.

On Isner's fifth match point, Baghdatis hit a backhand long and the match was over.

However, Isner said he should have ended the match earlier.

"I had two match points on my serve," he said. "Nine times out of 10 I'm going to win one of those two."

Earlier in the match, Isner said, his serve and forehand worked well, but he struggled with his backhand.

This is the fourth time this season Isner, ranked 77th in the world, has reached the quarterfinals of an ATP tournament. He made it to the semifinals of the Indianapolis Tennis Championships this month before losing to Robby Ginepri, and won a Challenger-level tournament in Tallahassee, Fla., in April.

The 6-foot-9 Isner was scheduled to play a doubles match with partner Sam Querrey later in the afternoon but pulled out to rest his ankle. He has today off before facing Carsten Ball on Friday.

Ball defeated third-seeded Dmitri Tursunov, 6-4, 0-1, after Tursunov retired in the second set because of a left ankle injury.

Marat Safin advanced to the quarterfinals by beating Ernests Gulbis, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Safin said he struggled somewhat with Gulbis' style: "I always have trouble with guys that are big hitters because they can play really fast."

Safin has said he will retire at the end of this season and is playing his final L.A. Open. He praised the tournament and the city, but said he would rather come to Los Angeles when he didn't have to compete. Safin will next play top-seeded Tommy Haas, who beat Jesse Levine 6-1, 6-3.

In doubles, Jeff Coetzee and Jonathan Erlich beat Martin Damm and Robert Lindstedt, 6-4, 6-4. Benjamin Becker and Frank Moser were set to play Isner and Querrey but advanced in a walkover to face Yen-Hsun Lu and Dusan Vemic.

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william.brink@latimes.com

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