The 40th edition of the Heineken Open in Auckland will be played in 2014 and organisers remain hopeful defending champion John Isner will return to the event.
World No. 5 David Ferrer had been the reigning champion for the past three years, however his winning streak came to an abrupt end in the semi-finals in the event in 2014 as unseeded Yen-Hsun Lu of Taiwan caused the biggest upset of the tournament.
Lu, ranked No. 53 in the world, defeated the top seeded Ferrer in straight sets 6-4, 7-6 (4). Ferrer had led their head to head record 2-1, however Lu’s only victory leading up to the event had come as a default of Ferrer retiring in Beijing. Ferrer had defeated Lu in the second round of the same tournament only twelve months prior, but this year it wasn’t to be, and it was the 30-year-old from Taiwan who advanced into the final to face big-serving American John Isner.
But the third seeded Isner crushed the hopes of Lu defeating him in straight sets 7-6 (4), 7-6 (7) to win his eighth career title. Lu is still yet to win a title on the ATP tour.
"I've been through injuries, I dropped my ranking and came back and in the last few years I was really stable in the top 100. But this was a really good step to reach a final on the ATP Tour and I hope I can take this performance and go into next week and the rest of the year," Lu said after the loss.
It was Isner’s second title in Auckland after winning the same event in 2010. Following the victory, he said:
"This is the only title I've won outside the US. This is an amazing feeling. I will cherish this one for sure. I'm going to go into the Australian Open with a lot of confidence, which players will tell you is sometimes hard to come by. I'm one of the few players going there on a winning streak, so I have that on my side."
Despite facing a break point in his first service game of the opening set, Isner went on to hold serve for the match’s entirety, as his 23 aces definitely did not go astray. He was never seriously threatened on serve again after the first game, and incredibly not once did either player break serve throughout the duration of the match.
Isner had three break point opportunities on the Lu serve, but failed to capitalise as the Taiwanese player leveled the score at 6-6. Isner stole the mini break in the first point of the tiebreaker and hit two explosive serves to lead 3-0 on his way to clinching the first set 7-6.
The American had two opportunities to seize the early break in the second set off the Lu serve, with the World No. 53 0-40 on serve. But Lu managed to claw his way back into both service games, and saved himself from what would have been an almost certain defeat. Both players held serve and in similar fashion to the first set, the scores were level again at 6-6, forcing another tiebreaker.
On the contrary to the first set tiebreaker, it was Lu who got the mini break and gained a 3-0 lead early. But Isner, determined not to let the match go to three sets, fought his way back. Lu managed to save one championship point, but it was the powerful American that prevailed with a 142-mph serve that Lu only just got his racquet on.
"This match was very tight as every match I've played this week was very tight. I needed every bit of it to come out on top. I've spent a lot of time on this court this week but as each match progressed I was getting more and more comfortable," Isner said.
The 28-year-old won four out of five tiebreakers en route to the final, including another match against Philipp Kohlschreiber that was made up of only tiebreak sets.
But there had been speculation about his fitness leading up to the tournament after he sustained an ankle injury at the Hopman Cup the week before. Isner credited his chiropractor for helping him through the pain:
"I'd like to thank my chiropractor because I had a bit of a banged up ankle coming in here and he spent tireless hours working on me and without him I wouldn't have been able to take this court."
It remains to be seen on whether The World No. 13 will return to defend his title in the Heineken Open in Auckland next year, in what will mark the 40th edition of the event.