WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — American John Isner won the Winston-Salem Open with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over Julien Benneteau on Saturday.
The native of nearby Greensboro overcame 34 unforced errors with 19 aces — the fastest was recorded at 139 mph — and won his second tournament of the year. He also won at Newport, R.I., in early July.
“It means a lot for sure,” said the 28th-ranked Isner, who will face Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus on Wednesday in the opening round of the U.S. Open. “Obviously, I couldn’t have asked for anything better. This is perfect preparation for me heading up north.”
Isner won his third pro title overall in his eighth final appearance.
The 113th-ranked Benneteau was playing in his ninth match of the tournament, having won three qualifying matches just to make the 32-player main draw. The 29-year-old knocked off three seeded players to make the fifth tournament final of his career.
Isner had trouble adjusting his game to wind gusts of 25-30 mph — brought on by Hurricane Irene, which skirted the region — with 23 of his 34 unforced errors coming in the first set and six games of the second set. That allowed Benneteau to break Isner in the ninth game of the first set, and forge a 3-3 tie midway through the second.
“It was the same for both of us, but he was handling it better,” Isner said. “That first set-and-a-half, he was playing solid and making balls. In the wind, that’s what you’ve got to do, you’ve got to play to a big margin of the court and not go for lines. That’s what I tried to do too much.”
But as the winds settled down, Isner’s game picked up. He got his first break on Benneteau in the eighth game of the second set to go up 5-3. He then served three aces in the deciding game before closing out with a crosscourt forehand winner to force a third set.
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Isner broke Benneteau again in the fifth game to go ahead 3-2, then held serve twice, closing out the match with four untouched shots — an overhead winner, his 139-mph ace, a service winner and a big forehand winner — in the final game.
The wind “was difficult for both of us,” said Benneteau, who knocked off three seeded players en route to the fifth tournament final of his career. “At the beginning, it was more difficult, and he missed some shots because of it.”
Benneteau played nine matches in eight days, including four straight three-setters — also appeared to catch up with Benneteau over the final two sets of Saturday’s final. He committed 12 of his 13 unforced errors over the span, while Isner had 14 of his aces, eight in the final set alone.
“I wasn’t tired,” said Benneteau, who is scheduled to play 10th-seeded Nicolas Almagro of Spain at the U.S. Open. “But I missed a couple shots in the second set when he broke me because I didn’t go for it. With the wind, you’ve got to go for it because you don’t control the ball otherwise.”
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press
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