American tennis fans would be forgiven for thinking it was groundhog day on Friday at the Western and Southern Open as they witnessed John Isner defeat an American #NextGenATP star 7-6(4), 7-5. But it really happened twice as, a day after defeating Frances Tiafoe by that score, Isner took out Jared Donaldson by the exact same scoreline. In an eerily similar match to his third round battle the day before, the giant American saved his best for late in the sets, dominating a tiebreak before scoring a late break to book his place in the Cincinnati semifinals.
Doubles Doom Donaldson
The first set was completely dominated by the servers. Not only were there no break points in the opener, there weren’t even many close calls. Isner would need to battle through a pair of deuces in his second service game, but would smack a pair of aces to keep the match on serve. However, the American veteran could make no inroads on his younger countryman’s serve.
The tiebreak, however, was dominated by Isner, although all he had to do was be consistent. After the first five points went with serve, putting Isner up 3-2, Donaldson completely imploded. The youngster missed four consecutive serves, handing the veteran two minibreaks courtesy of two double faults. Isner would quickly serve his way to a 6-2 lead and although Donaldson would reclaim one of the minibreak with a forehand winner, he sent a forehand wide on the second set point.
Isner strikes late
The older American had a chance to seize control of the match when he took a 0-30 lead in the fifth game of the second set, but Donaldson was able to dig his way out of the hole and hold. The youngster then returned the favour in the following game, taking a 0-30 lead before Isner, as he so often does, served his way out of the jam. Donaldson would get another half-chance when he pushed Isner to deuce in the 10th game, but the veteran hung on to keep the scores level at 5-all.
In the next game, Isner made Donaldson pay. A wicked, tightly-angled forehand return dropped in to give him another 0-30 lead and this time, a double fault set up a double break point, the first break points of the match. Donaldson would send his backhand into the net to surrender the first and only break of the match on the only break point played. Isner would serve out the match in the following game, booking his place in his second Masters 1000 semifinal of the season with an ace.
By the numbers
Isner’s first serve was as deadly as ever, as the American pounded 25 aces, only lost five points on his first serve (90 percent) and did not face a break point. However, he only won 45 percent of his second serve points. Donaldson was pretty good on serve as well, winning 81 percent of his first serves and hitting eight aces, although he also committed five double faults, many of them in big moments. He failed to save the lone break point he faced.
Isner, who reached the final here in 2013 and has now reached the semifinals or better at more than one Masters 1000 event in a season for just the second time in his career, will play Grigor Dimitrov for a spot in the final.