Juan Martin del Potro beats John Isner, wins Citi Open final
Juan Martin del Potro knows that a successful week in Washington can pay off at the U.S. Open.
Getting his game in shape ahead of the year's last Grand Slam tournament, the top-seeded del Potro eventually solved John Isner's big serve for a 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 victory in the Citi Open final Sunday, winning his championship and 14th consecutive match at the hard-court tournament.
"He deserves this title. He's going up there three times,'' Isner said, pointing to the blue awning that lists past winners in Washington. "I wish my name could go up there.''
Back in 2009, del Potro followed up a title in the nation's capital with his only Grand Slam trophy at the U.S. Open, which starts in three weeks.
"I have fantastic memories,'' del Potro told the crowd, "so I will try to keep coming, year (after) year.''
On Sunday, del Potro broke Isner four times in all, including three in a row while winning seven consecutive games to take control.
Isner - best known for winning the longest match in tennis history, 70-68 in the fifth set at Wimbledon in 2010 - had not even faced a break point over any of his previous three matches. Del Potro also limited Isner to six aces, after the eighth-seeded and 20th-ranked American pounded 29 in the semifinals.
But perhaps Isner was a bit fatigued, playing for the ninth time in 11 days. He won a hard-court title at Atlanta last week and carried an eight-match winning streak into Sunday, when his play dipped over the last two sets. During the trophy ceremony, Isner thanked his chiropractor, drawing chuckles from fans.
The seventh-ranked del Potro, who was playing his fifth match in four days, won the Washington tournament in 2008 and 2009, then skipped it in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
It's the second trophy of the season for del Potro, who won a tournament played on an indoor hard court at Rotterdam in February.
Defending champion Magdalena Rybarikova was scheduled to face Andrea Petkovic in the women's final later Sunday.
With wind whipping around at 15 mph and temperatures at 80 degrees, Isner got off to a terrific start - thanks in part to his powerful and always effective serve, not surprisingly, but also with other aspects of his still-evolving game.
It took Isner less than 10 minutes to create a cushion, breaking at love for a 3-1 edge with the help of a forehand return winner and three long points that required patience and solid groundstrokes until each ended with a mistake by del Potro.
There were two 11-stroke exchanges, one capped by a backhand into the net, the other by a wide forehand. And on break point, Isner used some baseline defense to prolong a 21-shot sequence that finished with del Potro's forehand clipping the net cord and dropping back on his side.
Showing some touch, too, Isner won one point with a drop shot, then another with a drop-volley combination as he moved ahead 5-2. Even mixed in an on-the-run, cross-court backhand passing winner, followed by a cross-court forehand pass, on the way to his first set point, which del Potro saved with a 112 mph service winner.
Given that Isner never had won a set against del Potro in three previous meetings, it made sense that nothing would come easily this time, either. So Isner required five set points before eventually cashing in with a 137 mph service winner.
Still, perhaps Isner was bound to falter after such impeccable serving all week.
Del Potro earned his first break point Sunday - and the first Isner faced since his opening match - 35 minutes into the final, in the second set's second game. But a 14-stroke point ended with del Potro sailing an easy forehand long for an unforced error. He hung his head, leaned over with hands on knees, then crouched down and stared at the net.
Isner also took the next two points, serve-and-volleying on the second, to hold for 1-all. But then everything changed, and Isner wouldn't win another game for a substantial stretch.
"I think I was lucky in the second set,'' del Potro said.
A bad drop shot into the net, a poor overhead smash right at del Potro that resulted in a cross-court forehand winner, a long forehand and a long backhand all added up to a break at love. That ended a run of 50 consecutive service games won by Isner across four matches and put del Potro up 3-1 in the second set.
A huge forehand by del Potro, one of the hardest and flattest hitters around, set up a break point in his next return game, too, and Isner then pushed a backhand long to make it 5-1.
Soon that set was del Potro's and the match was tied after 55 minutes - but it was quite clear who was in charge.
Del Potro had only one difficult portion left, facing three break points while serving for the match. But he erased those last chances for Isner, then ended the 1 1/2-hour match with a cross-court backhand winner.
In women's action, seventh-seeded Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia beat unseeded Andrea Petkovic of Germany 6-4, 7-6 (2) on Sunday to win the tournament for the second consecutive year.
Rybarikova, who is ranked 43rd, improved her record at the hard-court tournament to 10-0.
Half of her four career titles have come in Washington.
Petkovic is a former top-10 player who is coming back from a series of injuries and is currently ranked 64th. She had a tough turnaround, coming back to play in the final a little more than 15 hours after her rain-delayed semifinal finished past 2 a.m. Sunday
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