ATLANTA (AP) — Top-seeded defending champion John Isner advanced to the Atlanta Open final for the fourth time in the tournament's five-year history, beating practice partner Jack Sock 7-5, 6-4 on Saturday.
As the 12th-ranked Isner seeks his ninth career title on Sunday, Dudi Sela will try to win his first. The 94th-ranked Israeli player beat Germany's Ben Becker 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 in a night match.
Isner improved to 15-3 in the event after saving his best for the end of each set. The former University of Georgia star broke Sock's service twice — each time to capture a set.
"I've made four finals here. Winston-Salem is my hometown. This feels like my hometown because I went to school here," Isner said. "I feel like it's my time of year to play well, and start picking up the pace a little bit."
Before the final game of the first set, Isner won only two points against Sock's first five service games.
Then, in a game that lasted 14 minutes and reached deuce nine times, Isner won 13 points, survived six game points, and took the set when Sock sent a backhand wide. That was Sock's third backhand of the set. All three were unforced errors.
"I wasn't putting any pressure on him, but I told myself that might work to my favor (to crank up his energy)," Isner said. "If I could put a little pressure on him, maybe he could crack a little bit and . . . second set, same thing."
Serving at 4-5 in the second set, Sock — who three weeks ago teamed with Canadian Vasek Pospisil to win the doubles title at Wimbledon — double faulted twice.
When Sock sent his last forehand into the net, Isner moved through to the Atlanta final yet again. He lost in there in 2010 and 2011 to Mardy Fish, and fell in the 2012 semifinals to eventual champion Andy Roddick.
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