John Isner def. Nicolas Mahut 7-6(4), 6-2, 7-6(6). In what has to be considered proof of the Law of Averages, Isner-Mahut II lasted only two hours and three minutes. For those of you who aren't so great at subtraction, that means that the sequel was a full nine hours and two minutes shorter than the record setting eleven hour, five minute encounter the two struggled through in their first round encounter last year at Wimbledon.
Isner got first blood in the match, using some crisp, low passing shots to force Mahut into errors during the first set tiebreak.
With the first set in hand, Isner seemed to take his game to another. Breaking Mahut as if it wasn't something he had previously failed to do sixty-eight times in a row, Isner cruised through the second set 6-2, finishing the set with his second break of the frame.
Things seemed to be turning in the third, though, as Mahut broke Isner in the third game and got out to a 4-2 lead. But Isner broke again, for the third time in the match, and was able to force a tiebreak.
With the tiebreak level at 5-5, Isner struck a magnificent return winner on the line to give himself a minibreak and a match point. But Isner duffed an easy volley into the net, leveling the breaker back at 6-6.
Luckily for all involved, this proved not to prolong the proceedings significantly. On his second match point at 7-6, on his second match point, Isner watched a Mahut forehand sail long, euthanizing what could have been another excruciating ordeal. The pair (who plan to play doubles together in Atlanta in July) embraced at the net, ending this unnecessary epilogue in front of a surprisingly sparse crowd.
Isner's tactics against Mahut had clearly changed since last year. He approached the net far more often in return games, finding sharp, low angles on passing shots that weren't there for him in 2010. Isner's probably wondering now why he couldn't play this well last year. I'm wondering too--it would have saved me from a lot of writing.
John Isner next gets No. 16 Nicolas Almagro, which should be a very winnable match for Isner on grass.