AUCKLAND (Reuters) - Big serving American John Isner saved one championship point and overcame some loose shotmaking to beat France’s Arnaud Clement 6-3 5-7 7-6 and win his first ATP Tour title at the Auckland Open on Saturday. The 24-year-old Isner staved off match point in the 12th game of the final set before smashing two aces past the French veteran to send the match into a tiebreak.
He then raced away with the shootout, jumping out to a 3-1 lead, which he built on to hold match point at 6-2 and then sealed the title when he blasted a forehand service winner down the line.
“This is awesome, I’m really glad I came here because it is one of my favorite tournaments outside of the States,” Isner told reporters. “I really enjoyed playing here last year and I thought I could be a contender here this year.
“I was one point away from elimination but I played a pretty much flawless tiebreak because I had told myself I had nothing to lose and (would) swing free and I got up.”
Isner, who pocketed $64,250 for winning the title, said he would donate $5,000 to the Red Cross to help with the aid effort in earthquake ravaged Haiti and was likely to add to that from any winnings from next week’s Australian Open.
He had romped through the first set in 33 minutes before the crafty 32-year-old Frenchman began to frustrate his younger opponent with his pinpoint accuracy.
Clement won the second set when he broke the 2.06 meter tall American in the 12th game, but lost much of that momentum when Isner broke in the first game of the deciding set.
Bidding for his fifth career singles title, Clement broke back immediately and seemed to be getting the better of a tiring Isner, who was relying on his booming serve, which produced 22 aces, to keep pace with the Frenchman.
Isner’s most effective weapon was put to good use in the 12th game when Clement held championship point at 30-40. The American produced two aces that sent it into the tiebreak.
“I was close to winning the match and I am very disappointed but all week I did my best and (today) I lost against a very good player and yes it’s tough, but it’s okay,” Clement said. “That’s sport.” Earlier, the last-minute pairing of New Zealand’s Marcus Daniell and his Romanian partner Horia Tecau clinched the doubles title with a 7-5 6-4 victory over Brazilian duo Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares.
Daniell and Tecau very nearly did not even play this week, with the 24-year-old Romanian only allowed to enter the doubles as a wildcard by tournament director Richard Palmer on the condition he partnered the New Zealander.
Such was the surprise at their progress, the 20-year-old Daniell was forced to give away tickets to a music festival on Friday because it clashed with their semi-final.
It was the first time in 11 years a New Zealander had won an ATP Tour title, and the first win by a local in 12 years at the Auckland Open.
Editing by Peter Rutherford