Winston-Salem, NC (Sports Network) - John Isner captured his second straight title at the Winston-Salem Open with a thrilling three-set victory over Tomas Berdych in Saturday's final of the U.S. Open tune-up.
Isner rallied for a 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (11-9) triumph to remain perfect in his home state event. The native of nearby Greensboro improved to 10-0 on the hardcourts at Wake Forest University.
The third-seeded American improved to 2-2 in ATP finals this year and earned his fifth career title. He also won in Newport last month after losing in finals at Indian Wells and Houston.
"It's a great feeling. Both my titles this year are the exact same titles I won last year," Isner said. "Defending a title is not easy. There's pressure on you coming into the tournament so I think for me to do that, at both Newport and here in Winston-Salem, it should help me a lot going forward in the coming years. I'm absolutely thrilled."
After needing three sets to beat top seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Friday's semifinals, Saturday's victory also didn't come easy.
There were no breaks of serve in the third set and Isner raced out to a 3-1 lead in the tiebreak before Berdych won four straight points. Isner then came up with a timely passing shot for his first forehand winner of the match and followed with an ace, but a forehand error set up a championship point for Berdych, who instead netted a backhand volley to make it 6-6.
Berdych also failed to convert two more points for the title, with Isner's 22nd and final ace saving the latter to make it 9-9.
Isner then caught a break when a Berdych forehand clipped the net cord and went wide. It gave Isner his second match point and he took advantage with a blistering forehand winner to wrap it up.
Berdych, trying for his eighth career title and first in the United States, slammed his racket in frustration while sitting in his chair after congratulating the winner.
"I won a couple of matches, which was the goal and the [reason] why I wanted to come here," Berdych said. "I made it pretty successful, but still one I was missing."
The second-seeded Czech fell to 7-8 all-time in ATP finals, including 1-2 this year. He won in Montpellier back in February and lost to Roger Federer in the Madrid title match during the spring.
Berdych broke serve early for a 3-2 lead and held at love in the following game, then broke again to capture the opening set. Isner saved one set point before drilling a forehand wide on the second.
Isner finally earned a break point in the opening game of the second set and converted thanks to a brilliant return of a blazing Berdych serve. The Czech appeared surprised at the return and simply missed a forehand wide to give Isner the early advantage.
A quick hold of serve solidified the break and Isner dominated the second set with his serve, winning 16-of-17 first-service points with nine aces. He rifled three aces past Berdych in the final game alone to force a third set.
Isner, after a first-round flameout at Wimbledon, has had a solid summer in preparation for next week's U.S. Open. He beat Lleyton Hewitt for the title at Newport, reached the semifinals in Atlanta and bowed out to Federer in the quarterfinals at the Olympics before another semifinal run earlier this month in Toronto.
Currently ranked 10th in the world, Isner will open his stay next week at the U.S. Open against Belgian veteran Xavier Malisse. The seventh-ranked Berdych will meet David Goffin in his first-round match at Flushing Meadows.