Isner, Hewitt advance to showdown in Newport

NEWPORT, R.I. — John Isner feels comfortable being back in the United States. He’s showing it by dominating his opponents.

Isner, the top seed and defending champ, advanced to the final at the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships by beating Ryan Harrison, 7-6 (7-4), 6-3, on Saturday.

Isner, ranked 11th, will face Australia’s Lleyton Hewitt in the title match Sunday. Hewitt, a former world No. 1, defeated Rajeev Ram, 6-4, 5-7, 6-2. Isner is looking to become the first repeat champion on Newport’s grass courts since Fabrice Santoro in 2008.


The matches were held after Jennifer Capriati and four others were enshrined into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Joining Capriati in a 90-minute ceremony were recently retired player Gustavo Kuerten, master player Manuel Orantes, industry executive Mike Davies, and wheelchair champion Randy Snow, who was honored posthumously.

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Isner took control of his match by winning the first set tiebreak, improving his record to an ATP-best mark of 24-10 in tiebreaks this year. Similar to last year, he’s used his overpowering serve to take charge. So far in Newport this year, he’s held serve in 46 of 47 chances.

‘‘It’s feeling very similar actually, eerily similar,’’ he said. ‘‘Last year I wasn’t playing well and I came here and I desperately needed wins and confidence. This year I’m ranked a lot higher [than last year], but I didn’t play well in Europe — simple as that.’’

He realizes his play improves with his return to America.

‘‘I’m always most comfortable in the States. I really want to do well here,’’ said Isner, looking for his fourth ATP tour title. ‘‘I’ve been focused since the first day I practiced.’’


He wrapped up the match with a forehand winner down the line.

Hewitt, coming off five surgeries in four years, entered ranked 233d and was looking to accumulate matches in his comeback bid before he represents Australia for the London Olympics.

‘‘It’s about getting wins and putting yourself in position,’’ said Hewitt, looking for his 29th ATP title. ‘‘I think more than anything it’s about self-belief and self-confidence.’’

Ram said it was special to face a two-time Grand Slam champion.

‘‘I hope I’m still playing when he gets inducted into the Hall of Fame because that’s going to happen someday,’’ Ram said.


Capriati’s career — and her teenage life — took a number of twists and turns. She started as a teenage prodigy, was sidetracked with off-court troubles, rebounded to become a three-time Grand Slam champion, and now her journey is complete with her Hall induction.

In a tear-filled acceptance speech, the 36-year-old Capriati remembered her great moments in the game and touched on some of her troubles off the court.

Capriati was presented by 2009 Hall of Fame inductee Monica Seles.

‘‘I still managed to overcome some adversity, win a gold medal, win some Grand Slams, and stand at the podium at the Hall of Fame,’’ said Capriati, breaking into tears during her speech. ‘‘This is one milestone I thought I'd never achieve.’’

As a 14-year-old, she burst onto the scene fresh out of the eighth grade and reached the semifinals at her first Grand Slam event — the 1990 French Open.

Three years later, drug and other problems made a mess of her life and she temporarily dropped off the tour following the 1993 US Open.

Her downturn didn’t stop there. She was arrested that year for shoplifting at a Florida mall, and again the next year for marijuana possession. She also spent time in drug rehabilitation in 1994.