- The Washington Times - Monday, August 6, 2007

Andy Roddick made sure he wouldn’t become another victim.

In yesterday’s Legg Mason Classic final at William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center, the top seed put an end to a remarkable run for wild-card John Isner with a 6-4, 7-6 (4) victory. Isner, who as a senior helped Georgia win the NCAA title less than three months ago, had pulled off five upsets in just his second professional tournament.

The unlikely matchup came at a time when critics have questioned the state of American tennis. While the Legg Mason is simply a step toward the U.S. Open, the American presence this week could help spark a turnaround. On the same day as the ATP season’s first all-American final, countrymen Mike and Bob Bryan won the doubles final 7-6 (5), 3-6, 10-7 against Israel’s Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram.

“That was awesome,” Isner said. “The Bryans won the doubles, and Andy and I competed in the finals in singles. It’s amazing that two Americans were playing in the finals. It hasn’t happened that often.”

It did last year in Indianapolis, where Roddick lost to James Blake in the RCA Championship. But no American reached the quarterfinals of last year’s Wimbledon for the first time since 1911. Last August, the women’s top 10 did not include an American for the first time since weekly rankings were introduced in 1975.

Currently, Roddick and Blake are the only Americans in the ATP top 10.

“I think we were spoiled in the “80s and “90s,” Bob Bryan said. “[Andre] Agassi and [Pete] Sampras, we’ll never see a generation like that again. When we have two players in the top 10, it’s a great accomplishment for U.S. tennis.

“When you see Isner out here doing what he’s doing — I think he’s going to be top 50 any day now — U.S. tennis is looking good as far as I’m concerned.”

While yesterday’s victory was Roddick’s third Legg Mason title (he won in both 2001 and 2005), he has not won a Grand Slam title since the 2003 U.S. Open.

After Roddick secured the title, he and Isner met at center court.

“It’s a pleasure you’re around now,” Roddick told Isner. “Now is where you start your career. You have great momentum and great confidence. But don’t be satisfied.”

After Isner entered the summer ranked 839th, an ATP official said he moved up to No. 190 and was granted a wild card to the Cincinnati Masters starting Sunday. Isner, this year’s NCAA singles runner-up, is from Greensboro, N.C., and recently moved to Tampa, Fla.

As for Roddick, he wants his third Legg Mason title to give him a boost heading into the U.S. Open, which begins Aug. 27.

“I hope so,” Roddick said. “We still have three weeks in between, so a lot can happen between now and then. But I put myself in a good position for next week. It’s definitely not going to hurt.”

A day after beating 6-foot-10 Ivo Karlovic in the semifinals, Roddick faced the 6-9 Isner. Though seven inches shorter than Isner, Roddick was the only player in the tournament who could expose the rookie’s problems returning shots. That was on display early in the second set when Isner hit an overhead into the bottom of the net just inches away.

“I hope I don’t make ESPN’s non-top 10 plays,” Isner said. “I don’t know what I was doing. I was a couple inches from the net. I thought maybe my racket was going to hit the net on the follow-through because it was so close to the net. That was impossible to do that, but I managed to do it.”

All of Isner’s wins — against Tim Henman, Benjamin Becker, Wayne Odesnik, Tommy Haas and Gael Monfils — were decided by third-set tiebreakers, but he was unable to force an extra set against Roddick, who lost only one set in his five matches.

Roddick won his 23rd ATP title, and he hopes to see more of Isner.

“It’s nice to have new American faces,” Roddick said. “All we hear from various people is how there’s a lack of it. To have an all-American final, I’d say we’re doing pretty well for a country that is supposedly in a tennis crisis.”

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