NEW YORK (Reuters) - John Isner began the U.S. Open in typical fashion on Monday with a barrage of aces and a match that stretched to five sets, but the American failed to find a way past compatriot Steve Johnson as he fell 6-7(5) 6-3 6-7(5) 6-3 7-6(3).
World number 22 Isner sent down 52 aces in the contest -- the most at Flushing Meadows since Ivo Karlovic fired 61 in 2016 -- but Johnson withstood the storm to prevail in a gruelling match that lasted nearly four hours at Louis Armstrong Stadium.
“You can’t get frustrated when John’s hitting aces. If that’s the case then you’re in for a long day,” Johnson, who had 22 aces of his own, said.
“He’s got the best serve in the history of tennis. You know he’s going to hit a lot of aces. I guessed right a lot and they still got by me.
“It’s just the way it is. You have to laugh it off. I’ve played John enough to know it’s just trying to get your racket on it, any return you make is a good one and you move on.”
After a tight opening set, Johnson had a relatively easier time in the next as he got the crucial break of serve to level the contest at one set apiece.
Isner edged the third set after blasting 12 aces past his close friend before Johnson responded with another break in the fourth set that helped him drag the contest into a decider.
Johnson failed to convert two break-point opportunities in the final set of the contest but held his nerve in the tiebreak to seal the deal on his second matchpoint.
Johnson next faces Lithuania’s Ricardas Berankis, who got past Italian Federico Gaio 7-6(3) 4-6 6-4 6-4. The American is looking to reach the third round for the first time since 2012.
Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford
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