By John Delong
Defending champion John Isner served up a treat for Winston-Salem Open fans on Thursday night as he rolled to a 7-6 (5), 6-3 quarterfinal victory over David Goffin.
The emphasis is on served.
The Greensboro native bombed away 21 aces, including five in the first-set tiebreaker, and simply overpowered the 21-year-old Belgian.
It moved him into Friday’s semifinals against top-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who dismantled sixth-seeded Marcel Granollers 6-1, 6-2 earlier in the evening.
"I’ve gotten my serve to where I feel like it’s one of the best serves in the world, so it makes it a lot more simple for me," said Isner, who is currently ranked No. 10. "Really, in my matches it only takes one break of serve or one slip-up by my opponent or me stringing together a couple of really good points and that can be it. I’m glad to have it on my side and I do work at it. It’s not something I take for granted."
Goffin, ranked No. 58, knew there was little he could do against the serves that reached 136 mph.
Isner got 69 percent of his first serves in, won 87 percent of his first-serve points, and also won 76 percent of his second-serve points. He did not face a break point the entire night.
"It’s too fast," Goffin said. "You have to choose one side, left or right, and you do what you can. If it’s an ace, you change sides and you keep focused on your service game."
Isner seemed a bit sluggish early, as he did in previous wins over Martin Klizan and Jurgen Melzer. But in the tiebreaker, he did exactly what he needed to do, getting the one mini-break to go ahead 4-3.
"My serve takes a little bit of pressure off of me in the tiebreakers and puts it right back on my opponent," Isner said. "Generally speaking, they’re not going to get those free points, they’re going to have to work a little harder. One mistake in a tiebreaker from my opponent can cost them the set, and that’s exactly what happened.
"I wish it didn’t get to that. I was pressing a little bit in the first set. I felt like I was sort of waiting for him to lose the set rather than me going after the ball. But I was happy with how I played in that tiebreaker and then I played well in the second set."
Tsonga needed only 53 minutes to dispatch Granollers, who is currently ranked No. 25. It was a complete annihilation as Tsonga raced to a 5-0 lead in the first set and lost only 29 points in the entire match. Tsonga converted four of five break points.
"I played well," Tsonga said. "I was into the match from the beginning and played good tennis. I don’t know if he played his best tennis, I think he was a bit injured. But I played good tennis."
Tsonga had been forced to win tiebreakers in each of his first two matches, beating Thomasz Bellucci 6-3, 7-6 (3) and Sergiy Stakhovsky 7-6 (1), 6-4.
"I’m very happy because I played a bit less than the other two match," he said. "Also, because I played very good tennis, and for me it’s good for the rest of the tournament and next week."
Tsonga said he welcomed the matchup against Isner, even if the Greensboro native is the local favorite here.
"I think it’s good for me, it’s good for him," Tsonga said. "We’ll play a great match tomorrow and it’s going to be something good for the tournament. It is a good moment in sports."