Second verse, same as the first.
That was the story as John Isner rolled into the quarterfinals of the Winston-Salem Open with a 7-6, 6-2 victory over Jarkko Nieminen on Wednesday afternoon.
It’s the exact score that the fourth-seeded Isner won by over Dudi Sela in his first match in the second round on Tuesday, and the Greensboro native said that it was similar in more ways than one.
"It was pretty similar to yesterday," Isner said. "Obviously the score was the same but the overall feel of the match was the same. It took me a while to get used to how he was playing. I think the first set he was pretty solid. But then I really kicked it up in the tie-breaker and then I was on my way."
Isner will play Marcos Baghdatis on Thursday afternoon in the quarterfinals.
"I’m fresh and I want to go all the way," Isner said. "I don’t want to get up to New York early."
Isner again relied on his booming serve to dictate the match, and he wore Nieminen down as the match progressed. He had 10 aces, numerous other service winners, and won 30 of his 35 first-serve points. He did not face a break point the entire match.
"The first two matches, I’ve been in a good serving rhythm," Isner said. "I’ve been serving well, and when the ball has come back I have been dictating play with my forehand. That’s what I do on my service games. I hit big serves and I either serve and volley or try to follow it up with a forehand.
"I held serve comfortably today and that just puts so much pressure on my opponents. I think that’s what’s happened these last two matches. Especially when I win the first set, they’re thinking ‘Gosh, I have to win two sets against this guy who’s serving huge.’ I’m very fortunate to have my serve and it puts a lot of pressure on them to keep holding just to stay even with me."
Isner got his first mini-break in the tiebreaker to pull even 4-4, then held serve twice, and ended the set with a smash that landed well up in the bleachers at the Harold and Mildred Southern Stadium court.
"Any guy with a big serve will tell you being able to get cheap points, especially in a tiebreaker if I’m down, say 4-3, if I’m able to hit two big serves I’m back in play," he said. "It’s so much pressure on them serving 4-5. That’s a great example. So I’m very confident in tiebreakers. I have been in that situation a lot and I like my chances in the tiebreaker."
The Greensboro native again had the support of friends and long-time fans. He called this entire week rejuvenating to him, because he has been able to stay at home and be with family.
"It’s rejuvenating," he said. "Just mentally more than anything. You know, when you’re on the road it’s not so much the matches that wear on players, it’s going from hotel to hotel. Wake up and eat the same breakfast. Go to the court and practice, that same routine. Especially when you’re overseas it can be tough. So that’s what I’m not doing this week. I’m staying at home, get to sit on my couch and watch TV. It’s nice. It’s definitely a good recovery.
In the afternoon’s other matches on the Harold and Mildred Southern Stadium court, ninth-seeded Sergiy Stakhovsky beat No. 5 seed Nikolay Davydenko 6-4, 6-4, and third-seeded Alexandr Dolgopolov beat Grigor Dimitrov 6-4, 1-6, 7-6.
For Stakhovsky, it was sweet revenge after Davydenko beat him in the first round at Cincinnati last week.
The 25-year-old Ukranian got up a break early in the first set and held the rest of the way take the set. Then he broke Davydenko twice to open the second set and lead 3-0, and survived some nervous moments the rest of the way.
"I was definitely better prepared than I was last week," Stakhovsky said. "I played better than the first round, and I played better than Cincinnati. I’m just starting to get back to the level I used to be. So I’m taking it in small steps and I’m satisfied with the result."
Stakhovsky was pleased with the way he mixed his shot selection.
"I was playing smart on his serve," he said. "I was mixing things up. I didn’t give him a chance to get into a rhythm, which he loves. As long as he’s in a rhythm he’s really hard to play. So I was trying to slice and hit some high balls and just give it a shot at a winner and just not give him the rhythm of the game."
Dolgopolov lost all momentum after winning the first set, and had to regroup in the third and eventually pull out a 9-7 tiebreaker. He had to fight off a match point in the tiebreaker before winning the final three points.
"I think I played well in the tiebreak," Dolgopolov said. "I didn’t have any unforced errors, and that’s why I won.
"It was a tough match. I started well and I was serving well, but then in the second the match turned over and my serve was really bad and he started playing more aggressive. I was just trying to hold on there in the third set."
In other afternooon singles matches, qualifier Julien Benneteau beat Igor Andreev 2-6, 6-1, 7-6; 10th seeded Robin Haase beat Pierre-Ludovic Duclos 6-4, 7-5; and eighth-seeded Baghdatis beat Steve Darcis 7-5, 6-0.