PARIS — Three thoughts on No. 19 John Isner’s 5-7, 6-7 (7), 6-3, 6-1, 8-6 win over Ryan Harrison in the second round of the French Open on Friday …
1. Isner notches a first. Mr. 70-68 had never come from two sets to none down to win a match. It took 10 break points before Isner finally gained the advantage on his younger U.S. compatriot in the final set, which lasted 71 minutes (10 more minutes than Serena Williams was on the court Friday). The 6-foot-9 Isner let loose two facets not usually part of his game — deft drop shots and a grunt.
“A lot of times I go five sets, and I have to go a long five sets,” Isner told ESPN2 after the match. “I was knocking on the door the whole fifth set. … The main thing to me was I was able to stay composed.”
Something had to give in the fifth set. Harrison had never won a match that went the distance. Isner, despite that marathon victory over Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon in 2010, owned a 4-11 five-set record, with four of those losses coming in Grand Slam events in 2012.
Isner, 28, advanced to face German Tommy Haas, a 35-year-old U.S. citizen who beat 20-year-old American Jack Sock 7-6 (3), 6-2, 7-5. Isner has never made the fourth round of the French Open.
“I will be able to recover, I know that much,” said Isner, who was knocked out in the second round last year, 18-16 in the fifth by Paul-Henri Mathieu in 5:41. “It’s going to be a tough match, but I’ll be ready for it.”
A win over Haas could mark a turning point in Isner’s topsy-turvy season. He missed the Australian Open with a knee injury and lost the top American ranking to Sam Querrey before the clay season began. He won the U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championships in Houston (green clay) but had gone 1-4 on European clay entering Roland Garros.