Isner Wins Sixth Truist Atlanta Open Title

John Isner and Brandon Nakashima (photo: Truist Atlanta Open)

ATLANTA/WASHINGTON, August 2, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Sunday’s ATP 250 Truist Atlanta Open final at Atlantic Station in Midtown Atlanta featuring Brandon Nakashima and John Isner gave fans an opportunity to appreciate a cross-generation of American tennis talent.

The 19-year-old Nakashima, playing not only in his second ATP Tour final of his career but also the second in as many weeks following his deep run last week in Los Cabos, Mexico – where he beat Isner 7-5, 6-4 in the semifinal round – has been one of the hottest players on tour.

Meanwhile, the World No. 35 Isner, who came into the title match as a five-time Atlanta champion, has been consistently ranked among the best U.S. men’s players for the past decade.

The 115th-ranked Nakashima, who is set to make his Top 100 debut in the FedEx ATP Rankings this week, proved that his past two weeks of success on North American hard courts has been no fluke. Although he didn’t win, he gave Isner all the six-foot-nine-inch gentle giant could handle.

After nearly two hours on Stadium Court, Isner eked out a 7-6 (8), 7-5 victory over Nakashima to win his sixth Atlanta title in his ninth Atlantic Station final. He lifted his 16th ATP Tour champion’s trophy overall.

“This tournament has meant everything for my career,” Isner said after his victory during an on-court interview before the trophy ceremony. “It’s absolutely amazing.”

Isner’s match experience and his ability to maintain calm while playing a tie break served him well. So, too, did his 21 service aces. He won the 56-minute opening set 7-6 by prevailing 10-8 in – what else? – a tie break. Isner fired 10 aces and saved the only break point of the set, which came in his sixth service game. It was just the 12th tie break of Nakashima’s young career while Isner has been in more than 600 of them as a tour-level pro.

“Obviously, I play a lot of those,” the 36-year-old native of Greensboro, N.C. who now resides in Dallas, Texas. “It’s a situation that I’m comfortable in because I’ve been on Tour forever. I think today I was just a little bit luckier and that’s really what it came down to.”

Later, after Isner gained a 5-4 lead in the second set, Nakashima raised the level of his game and saved four match points during a lengthy, nine-minute 10th game to even the score. So, they played on. Then, Isner saved two break points in his next service game, which gave him a 6-5 lead. This time, he didn’t let a good opportunity slip away.

Finally, Isner prevailed on his fifth match-point opportunity after Nakashima double-faulted away the title, which culminated a 12-point final game.

The final stats were very even between the two Americans. Isner finished with 21 aces and won 81 percent (46 of 57) of his first-serve points and broke Nakashima once. He outpointed his opponent 82-78. Meanwhile, Nakashima struck 11 aces and won 81 percent (43 of 53) of his first-serve points. He was unable to break Isner’s serve in three tries.

“It was two great weeks for me for sure,” Nakashima, a resident of San Diego, Calif., said during the trophy ceremony. Now, it’s on to the Citi Open in Washington, D.C., where he received a wild card and will play Alexei Popyrin of Australia in the first round on Tuesday. “It definitely gives me a lot of confidence in my game knowing that I could hang with these top guys and produce good tennis in back-to-back weeks. Leading into the next few tournaments and the US Open, I know that I’m playing well and I know I could make deep runs there.”

As for Isner, the Truist Atlanta Open triumph raised his career win-loss record at Atlantic Station to 36-5. It was his first tour-level title since winning the Hall of Fame Open in Newport, R.I., in 2019, and with it, he became the oldest American champion on tour since 37-year old Jimmy Connors won the last of his record 109 titles at Tel Aviv in 1989.

En route to the title, Isner strung together wins over J.J. Wolf, Jack Sock, Christopher O’Connell, Taylor Fritz and Nakashima. Three of his five wins went the distance. Now, he’ll take this week off to be with his family before returning to play Toronto and Cincinnati in prepapation for the US Open.

“It’ll give me a lot of confidence for sure,” Isner said, in speaking about his sixth Atlanta title victory. “Hopefully, I can take this and go forward and build some momentum for the tournaments ahead.”

Sunday’s Truist Atlanta Open results

Around Atlantic Station

Playing together for the first time this week, Reilly Opelka of the United States and Italy’s Jannik Sinner teamed to win the Truist Atlanta Open doubles title Sunday evening. They beat Steve Johnson of the United States and Jordan Thompson of Australia, 6-4, 6-7 (6), 10-3.

By the numbers

• By winning the Truist Atlanta Open, Isner (age 36) became the oldest ATP Tour winner this season and extended his record as the oldest Atlanta champion. He also is the fourth active player to win at least six titles at a tour-level event. The others are Roger Federer (at seven events), Rafael Nadal (at four events) and Novak Djokovic (at four events).

• With 21 aces in the final, John Isner hit a Truist Atlanta Open tournament-record 127 aces this week, breaking the old record of 99 set by Reilly Opelka in 2019.

• Brandon Nakashima, who turns 20 on Tuesday, is the youngest player to reach ATP Tour finals in back-to-back weeks since Felix Auger-Aliassime, at age 19, at Rotterdam and Marseille in 2020.