Dudi Sela looked to become the first Israeli to win an ATP Tour title in 21 years when he faced top seed John Isner in the final of the Atlanta Open late Sunday night.
The 29-year-old Israeli, ranked No.
94 in the world, advanced to his first ATP final in almost six years on Saturday night after beating Benjamin Becker (66) 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.
Sela recorded his fourth straight win over a higher ranked player after overcoming Donald Young (73), Sam Querrey (61) and Vasek Pospisil (39) in the first three rounds in Atlanta.
“I feel great [being in the final]. The atmosphere is great here in Atlanta,” said Sela, who is hoping to follow in the footsteps of Amos Mansdorf who was the last Israeli to lift an ATP title when he triumphed in Washington in 1993. “The crowd support was incredible.”
Sela didn’t face a break point in the first set and recorded the only break of serve of the set in the eighth game.
The German converted his one and only break point in the second set to tie the score and send the match to a decider. The Israeli took a 4-2 lead in the third set after breaking in the sixth game, the first of three consecutive service breaks, which allowed Sela to serve out the match in the ninth game.
Sela was playing in his first ATP Tour semifinal since March 2012, with the Israeli’s one and only appearance in a final until Sunday coming in Beijing in September 2008 when he lost to Andy Roddick.
Sela played an American once more on Sunday, with world No. 12 Isner reaching his fourth final in five years at Atlantic Station after defeating countryman Jack Sock 7-5, 6-4 in the semis.
Isner, the defending champion, won 94 per cent of his first-serve points and broke twice during the one hour and 37-minute encounter.
Isner dropped only two points on first serve to wear down Sock, who became increasingly frustrated as the match progressed in searing heat, at one stage arguing with the umpire after a line call was reversed on replay.
“It was not easy conditions at all in the heat today,” Isner said. “I thought I played pretty well. Jack is a really good player. I wanted to win that match.”
Isner clearly feels at home in the state where he went to college at the University of Georgia, but the first set almost slipped away when Sock had a break point at 5-5, only to hit the tape with a backhand down the line.
Buoyed by the reprieve, Isner finally broke serve to take the set in the next game, a 14-minute marathon as Wimbledon doubles champion Sock staved off two set points.
The first nine games of the second set went with serve before Sock frittered away a 30-0 lead in the 10th game.
He saved two match points, before double-faulting on the third to hand Isner victory.
The 2.08-meter right-hander, who has a 33 centimeter height advantage over Sela, has won eight ATP titles, his most recent in Auckland in January.
He has a 2-0 career head-to-head record against Sela, with their last meeting coming in the second round in Delray Beach in February when Isner triumphed in a third-set tiebreak.
Sela had gone more than five months without playing in the last eight of an ATP Tour tournament before finding his form in recent weeks, also reaching the quarters in Newport earlier this month.
A win for Sela on Sunday will see him climb around 20 places in the ATP rankings, with the Israeli to move up just six places should he lose as he is defending the ranking points he picked up this time last year by claiming the Challenger Tour title in Astana, Kazakhstan.
Meanwhile, Shahar Pe’er came up just short in her attempt to win her fourth WTA Tour doubles title on Sunday, losing in the final in Baku, Azerbaijan with Raluca Olaru. The Israeli/Romanian duo suffered a 6-2, 7-6 (3) defeat to Alexandra Panova and Heather Watson.
Reuters contributed to this report.