- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 4, 2007

John Isner’s coach at Georgia often talked to him about how to play a tiebreaking set.

“Get one or two points on your opponents’ serve,” Manuel Diaz would always say.

Isner tried to follow his coach’s advice yesterday against second-seeded Tommy Haas in the quarterfinals of the Legg Mason Classic in the District. But at match point in the second-set tiebreaker, Isner’s return was long.

However, in the third-set tiebreaker, the 6-foot-9 Isner used his favorite weapon — his serve — to upset Haas 6-4, 6-7 (6), 7-6 (5). Isner had 30 aces in all, preventing Haas from reaching 400 career wins.

“Once again my serve kept me in the match,” Isner said. “I can’t believe I won in that fashion. I feel like I’m going to wake up any second now.”

It’s no dream. Isner is in the semifinals of the Legg Mason and will face Gael Monfils today.

Isner has gone this far just three months after being an NCAA singles finalist at Georgia.

Of Isner’s 14 sets this year, eight have ended in a tiebreak, and all four of his matches here have been decided by a tiebreak in the final set.

“I’m not that nervous,” Isner said. “The pressure is on my opponent more than me because they’re expected to beat me. But I never imagined to be put in this situation four times in a row.”

With Isner’s upsets of to players seeded in the top of the tournament, Haas proposed a new rule to better handle the tall phenomenon.

“They should come up with a system that if you’re over 6-foot-6, you’re not allowed to play,” Haas joked.

But Haas did take serious offense to the Hawk-Eye system.

Isner hit a second-serve ace on the center line to reach match point, 6-5 in the second-set tiebreaker. Haas challenged, but the call stood. He also challenged Isner’s ace that made it 5-4 in the third-set tiebreaker. But replays showed it was not a double fault.

“It’s not accurate. I found that out today,” Haas said. “There was a space in between the line and the ball mark. The machine is not a Hawk-Eye because it’s wrong. I’ve heard it’s not accurate 100 percent anyway.”

Isner sees it differently.

“The replay system is awesome,” Isner said. “I’ve always been a big fan of it in the NFL. It doesn’t disrupt the play out there and it only takes a second. It gets the calls right.”

Another upset

After struggling earlier this year, Monfils wants to play in the U.S. Open.

“It’s still far and we have three or four weeks,” he said. “We never know what will happen. We’ll just focus here.”

Here is the Legg Mason Classic, where Monfils upset third-seeded Marat Safin 6-3, 7-5 in yesterday’s quarterfinals.

Monfils lost in the first round of 10 tournaments this year, dropping his ATP ranking to 78th in May — his lowest since June 2005.

But he bounced back by making the finals of the Hypo Group Tennis International later that month and reaching the quarterfinals of the Suisse Open in July.

Monfils defeated Safin with relative ease because he got to all of Safin’s drop shots.

“I know I’m fast,” Monfils said. “I run to the ball because to me the point is never over. If I feel like I can get the ball, I’ll go.”

Roddick rolls on

Andy Roddick defeated Lee Hyung-taik 7-6 (8), 6-2 to advance to the semifinals, where he’ll meet Ivo Karlovic. Roddick has now won seven straight matches in the District, and yesterday was his 10th quarterfinal appearance in the Legg Mason Classic.

Lee “gets into a groove sometimes and you just have to stay the course and wait for the opportunities,” Roddick said. “I did a good job of that. I felt like I was in control of my service games, and even when I was down I felt like I controlled the pace of the match.”

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