The US Open equivalent of a grudge match made its way to Louis Armstrong Stadium on Saturday as the No. 13 seed, American John Isner faced No. 22 seed Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany in a third-round match. The German had beaten Isner in the third round of the last two US Open tournaments, so the big-serving Isner was eager to avoid a three-peat.
He certainly played his part in trying to prevent that from happening. Having not lost his serve once in his first two matches and firing 56 aces to just one double fault, Isner continued the untouchable serving trend against Kohlschreiber. He held serve in all 23 of his service games and hammered 42 aces in the match.
That number ties for the second-most aces in a match in recorded US Open history, matching Ivo Karlovic’s number in his 2008 second-round victory, second only to the 49 aces that Richard Krajicek had in his quarterfinal loss in 2009. Isner used his serve to help set up a staggering 72 winners throughout the match, compared to just 38 unforced errors.
“He was obviously taking care of his own service games quite easily,” said Kohlschreiber. “He’s a big guy, so I was just trying to move him around and take my chances when I had them.”
Kohlschreiber ultimately earned his victory by ramping up his level of play when it mattered most in the tiebreaks. A drop shot winner in the first-set tiebreak gave the No. 22 seed an early mini-break that he rode all the way to a one-set lead. In the third-set tiebreak, he took advantage of some uncharacteristic poor form from Isner as the American hit five consecutive unforced errors to drop the set.
The fourth-set tiebreak came down to a single shot, as Kohlschreiber rifled a backhand passing shot to grab a mini-break and a 5-4 lead. He made good on his first match point opportunity by hitting a service winner to prevail after just over three hours of play.
Kohlschreiber now plays No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic in the fourth round, with the former US Open champion leading their head-to-head meetings 4-1.
“I’ll need to play my best and get a little bit of help from him,” said Kohlschreiber. “We’ve practiced a few times recently and I know what to expect, so I’m going to do everything I can to try and win the match.”