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John Isner vs Matthew Ebden ATP Atlanta Preview, Predictions and Live Stream: Isner looks to continue remarkable Atlanta dominance

Leye Aduloju in ATP Tour 28 Jul 2018
  • John Isner vs Matthew Ebden is live from Atlanta on Saturday, 28 July from 3:00pm local time./ 8:00pm BST
  • Isner has won three of the four previous meetings, but Ebden won their most recent encounter at the Australian Open
John Isner. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

American number one, John Isner continues his quest for a fifth Atlanta title when he takes on Australia’s Matthew Ebden in the semi-finals of the BB & T Atlanta Open on Saturday.

Isner’s record in Atlanta is extraordinary. The American has now reached the semi-finals in all nine editions since 2010; and has made the final in seven of the previous eight seasons, winning the title four times. All four titles have come within the last five years, with Nick Kyrgios being the only man to soil Isner’s perfect record by defeating the American in the 2016 final. With Kyrgios exiting the tournament on Friday night, the coast appears clear for Isner to go on and claim yet another title in Atlanta.

Heading into the 2018 Atlanta Open, Isner did not just have history firmly in his favour, the 33-year-old also had form right behind him. The world number nine barely left the blocks in the first couple of months in 2018- he won just one of his first seven matches on the ATP World Tour- but he has launched into orbit in the last three months, winning his first Masters 1000 title in a stunning week in Miami, and progressing to a maiden Grand Slam semi-final at Wimbledon, where he was denied a spot in the final by Kevin Anderson after that famous six-and-a-half hour Centre Court marathon.

Arriving Atlanta as a top ten player, Isner took apart Aussie young gun, Alex De Minaur in the second round (he had a first-round bye), before beating Mischa Zverev in the quarter finals on Friday, ending a three-match losing run against the German left0hander with a 7-5 4-6 6-1 victory.

"He is a tough player and I played well today. I needed to," Isner said. "It was a weird match. The balls were bouncing everywhere, it was tough to control. I was happy to get through in three sets."

Predictably, Isner powered down 21 aces, 10 more than Zverev managed, while he dropped just two points on his first serve- he played 40 first serve points. The American had a solid 68% conversion rate on his second serve points, while he dropped his serve just once- midway through the second set in the only break point he faced. Typical Isner numbers, and you can be sure they will be pretty much similar in Saturday’s semi-final meeting with Matthew Ebden.

Ebden has been on a really good run since the start of the grass court season. The Australian, who was ranked 699th at the start of 2017 has done very well to rebuild his ranking, ending last season inside the top 100, and making his top 50 debut this season.

Matthew Ebden. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
He won just four tour-level matches in the hard and clay court season combined in 2018, none of them consecutively, but his form improved dramatically on grass, starting off with a semi-final at the Surbiton Challenger, before making the semi-finals in s-Hertogenbosch, where he recorded back-to-back ATP World Tour wins for the first time this season. He then made the quarter finals in Halle, pushing Roger Federer hard before falling in two tight sets, and the third round at Wimbledon, where he lost to Gilles Simon in four sets.

That impressive run of form pushed him to a career-high ranking of 43 after Wimbledon, but that was followed by his first real blip on grass, losing to Tim Smyczek in the opening round in Newport, giving up the points he had accrued from his runner-up finish at the tournament last season. He fell to No. 55 on the rankings after Newport, but he has done an excellent job of making up for that in Atlanta (where he is defending zero points). Ebden has moved through the first two rounds without dropping a set, easing past Donald Young and Marcos Baghdatis to set up a semi-final meeting with Isner. Can Ebden defy the odds to reach his second ATP final?

Isner, unsurprisingly, bosses this match-up, winning three of the four previous instalments, but Ebden did win their most recent encounter, at the Australian Open earlier this year. The argument in Isner’s favour here is that he is in a totally different space at the moment compared to where he was at the start of the year when he simply couldn’t get going, and he is in a tournament which he has absolutely bossed for half a decade. 

"I am definitely playing better than I was in the beginning of the year. I was struggling a little bit," Isner said. "To his credit, he played much better than me that day in Australia. He had the home crowd on his side. It helps a lot. Now, I’m playing in my backyard and he beat me in his backyard. [We'll] see if I can turn the tide."

Ebden has also been in fine form. He has faced (and saved) just one break point all tournament, and the 30-year-old will make this very interesting with his penchant for serving-and-volleying, but it will take a monumental performance from the Australian to dislodge Isner from his formidable seat of power in Atlanta.

John Isner vs Matthew Ebden is live from Atlanta on Saturday, 28 July from 3:00pm local time./ 8:00pm BST

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John Isner vs Matthew Ebden ATP Atlanta Preview, Predictions and Live Stream: Isner looks to continue remarkable Atlanta dominance

John Isner takes on Matthew Ebden in the Atlanta semi-finals on Saturday. Will Isner advance to an eighth final in nine editions? Read our preview, predictions and stream the match live online.

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