John Isner and Hubert Hurkacz cruised past reigning Australian Open finalists Max Purcell and Luke Saville in their doubles opener Saturday at the Western & Southern Open. But when they faced one another on the singles court Sunday, only one was able to advance to the second round at the ATP Masters 1000 event.
Isner got his return to action off to a good start, using a typically strong serving performance to eliminate Hurkacz 7-5, 6-4 after one hour and 39 minutes. The World No. 21 finished the match in style with a leaping backhand overhead, reminiscent of one of Roger Federer’s signature shots.
“I just went after it and hit a great backhand overhead,” Isner told ESPN after the match. “I really don’t have that shot, so I got a little lucky and I’m happy to be off the court in two sets.”
The action on Grandstand at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center featured few lengthy rallies, with both players looking to get the first big strike in during the point, sometimes following those shots into the net. The match came down to who withstood pressure better, with Isner saving the two break points he faced while breaking his 23-year-old opponent twice.
Isner finally broke through at the end of the first set on his fifth set point. Hurkacz was forced to curl a low forehand approach shot up and down, missing long to give the No. 16 seed the opener.
Hurkacz took a medical timeout at 1-2, 15/15 in the second set to have his right index finger wrapped. However, he was able to stick close with Isner until the end of the set. The home favourite did not need as many opportunities this time, converting his first match point to set up a clash against Adrian Mannarino or John Millman. Isner signed the on-court camera, “Hi HG and Hobbs” with a smiley face, giving a shoutout to his children, Hunter Grace and John Hobbs.
Hurkacz’s coach, Craig Boynton, coached Isner from 2009-12. Isner and Hurkacz will compete on the same side of the net once again on Monday when they face Pablo Carreno Busta and Alex de Minaur in the second round of the doubles draw.
Did You Know?
Isner became the oldest first-time Masters 1000 champion in series history at the 2018 Miami Open presented by Itau, lifting that trophy at 32.