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John Isner vs Lukas Lacko BB&T Atlanta Open tennis live: Three-time champion Isner aims for the semi-finals

Andrew Hendrie in ATP Tour 28 Jul 2017
  • John Isner vs Lukas Lacko is live from Atlanta at 2.00pm local time on Friday (7.00pm BST)
  • Isner has won both their previous meetings in straight sets
John Isner

Three-time BB&T Atlanta Open champion John Isner targets the semi-finals on Friday when he takes on the experienced Lukas Lacko.

Second seed John Isner hasn’t lost before the final in Atlanta since 2012, and the towering American will be looking to continue that streak on Friday against Lukas Lacko of Slovakia. Isner, who excelled for the nearby University of Georgia, captured the Atlanta crown for three straight seasons between 2013-15, but his dominant reign was ended last year when he finished runner-up to Nick Kyrgios, who is absent this year due to a hip injury. Isner is once again favourite to pick up a fourth piece of Atlanta silverware, but first he must get past the experienced Lacko, who is aiming to reach his first ATP semi-final since 2012. Isner and Lacko take to court at 2.00pm local time on Friday (7.00pm BST).

On a five-match winning streak and feeling at home on American hardcourts, it will take a quality performance from any of the remaining players left in the Atlanta draw to stop John Isner from capturing a fourth BB&T Atlanta Open title over the next few days. Nine of Isner’s 11 ATP World Tour titles have come on home soil in the USA, with the other two coming at the start of the season in Auckland, New Zealand. Isner’s a different beast at home, and he will be hoping to continue his hot streak on Friday and make the semi-finals once more.

Isner extended his winning streak from securing the Newport title last week to five matches on Wednesday night when he eased past Canada’s Vasek Pospisil 6-3 6-4. The American was dominant behind his lethal delivery, winning 40 of 44 service points to secure his spot in the quarter-finals.

"I love coming back here," Isner said of Atlanta. "I'm very comfortable here and enjoy playing this event, so I'm very fortunate this tournament keeps coming back every year."

Although the calibre of opposition Isner has faced has been below par to say the least (the highest-ranked player he beat in Newport was No. 142 Bjorn Fratangelo), these victories are crucial to his confidence, which apart from some random out-of-the-blue deep runs at a pair of Masters 1000 tournaments, has taken a bit of a battering over the last two years.

Isner’s victory in Newport snapped a title drought of almost two years, with the 32-year-old failing to kick on from his shock run to the Paris Masters final at the end of 2016. Indeed, Isner didn’t win back-to-back matches throughout the opening five months of the season - but again, he snapped out of his poor form in scintillating fashion at Masters 1000 level, defeating Stan Wawrinka and Marin Cilic to make the semi-finals in Rome, ultimately losing to eventual champion Alexander Zverev.

Things didn’t really improve for Isner after that - he didn’t win consecutive matches on grass across three tournaments, including a disappointing five-set loss to Dudi Sela in the second round of Wimbledon. However he was the last man standing at Newport, and if he can put together back-to-back title triumphs by winning Atlanta, Isner might once again be a genuine force at upcoming Masters 1000 events in Montreal and Cincinnati, along with the US Open.

His opponent on Friday - Slovakia’s Lukas Lacko - hasn’t been to the semi-finals of an ATP event since he made his one and only tour-level final in Zagreb all the way back in 2012.

Lacko, a former World No. 44, hasn’t really come close to scaling those heights over the last few years on tour, with his ranking largely fluctuating between the 80-130 mark, and thus he’s been alternating between the Challenger circuit and main tour for most of that time. Famous for winning a set 6-0 over Rafael Nadal in 2011 at Doha, Lacko played predominantly on the Challenger Tour in 2016, although he did qualify and reach the third round of Wimbledon, which was his most noteworthy result of the season.

The 29-year-old replicated that result in Melbourne to launch his 2017 campaign, qualifying at the Australian Open and defeating Albert Ramos-Vinolas and Dudi Sela in the main draw before falling in the third round to Kei Nishikori. Lacko didn’t win a match at tour-level again until last week in Newport, where he upstaged the big-serving Reilly Opelka before going down to eventual finalist Matt Ebden.

Lacko has picked up his first back-to-back tour-level wins since January in Atlanta however, registering a pair of dominant victories over Thomas Fabbiano (6-1 6-2) and Donald Young (6-3 6-1) to book his ticket into the quarter-finals.

Isner and Lacko have played twice before on tour - and it was Isner who prevailed in both their 2014 encounters in straight sets. Lacko can play some solid tennis and does enjoy going on mini-runs out of nowhere, but I think his tournament ends here on Friday. Isner’s booming serve is on fire right now and he loves Atlanta. Expect Isner to win in straights, possibly without tiebreaks.

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John Isner vs Lukas Lacko BB&T Atlanta Open tennis live: Three-time champion Isner aims for the semi-finals

Three-time BB&T Atlanta Open champion John Isner targets the semi-finals on Friday when he takes on the experienced Lukas Lacko.

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