WASHINGTON -- Top seed Gael Monfils defeated No. 11 seed John Isner 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(6) in the semifinal of the Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington DC, avenging his loss to Isner at the same stage of the 2007 tournament, a match that also ended in a third set tiebreak.
Monfils will face unseeded Radek Stepanek in Sunday's final, which will begin at 3 p.m. (on ESPN2), less than 14 hours after his rain-addled semifinal ended at 1:15 a.m.
Just how addled was it?
The match, which featured "only" 30 aces (12 for Monfils, 18 for Isner), was not nearly as serve dominated as the pair's 2007 semifinal in Washington, which did not feature a break until the 35th game of the match.
Monfils was able to break Isner's serve in the ninth game of the match, and held to take the first set 6-4. Isner followed suit soon after, breaking broke Monfils in the second game of the second set, eventually winning it 6-3.
Isner did not have a break point after his one break conversion, while Monfils was unable to capitalize on any of the three he generated in the third set (including two match points at 4-5).
Monfils' second match point at 4-5 was a dramatic and strange one. John Isner hit a serve out wide that was not called in or out by the line judge, who had been unsighted by Monfils. Monfils challenged the call, but Hawkeye did not work and so the original call stood.
Having saved two match points, Isner seemed to have all momentum when the match moved into a third set tiebreak, especially given his 8-1 record in his previous nine third set tiebreaks in Washington.
But in that tiebreak, neither man could wrest any sort of momentum from the other. The first thirteen points went to the server, including a match point for Isner at 5-6. But Monfils saved it with a big serve, and gave himself his third match point at by boldly lobbing the 6'9'' Isner.
Serving at 6-7, Isner served into Monfils' body, but then dumped the Frenchman's response into the net with his forehand, giving Monfils the hard-fought win and proving the first minibreak of the tiebreak to be immediately fatal.
As Isner's ball hit the netting, Monfils screamed "Alllllleeeez!" The two slowly walked to the net, dropped their racquets, and embraced.
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