Israel is still waiting for its first ATP Tour title since 1993 after Dudi Sela dropped to a 6-3, 6-4 defeat to world No. 12 John Isner in the final of the Atlanta Open on Sunday night.
Sela was hoping to become the first Israeli to win an ATP title since Amos Mansdorf did so in Washington 21 years ago. However, the 29-year-old never really managed to mount a serious challenge against the defending champion, who wrapped up the win with his 15th ace after one hour and 11 minutes.
There was a surprisingly small difference between the players on points won on first serve (Sela: 26-of-33, Isner: 28-of-33). However, Isner finished the match with 38 winners to Sela’s 10, a massive margin which was not canceled out by the Israeli committing just nine unforced errors to the American’s 25.
Crucially, Isner also converted both of his break points, one in each set, while Sela’s one and only chance to break serve was saved by an ace.
“I want to congratulate John on a great win,” said Sela. “He wins here every year and I tried to stop him, but I couldn’t.”
Sela said he had hoped to record a win for the people back home.
“I wanted the win today for my people in Israel. It’s not easy the situation over there and hopefully it will be better,” Sela said. “I tried to play for (that) theme but John was too tough for me today.”
The 2.08-meter American, who has a 33 centimeter height advantage over Sela, won his ninth ATP title.
“I love being here,” said Isner, before also lending his support to Israel in its fight against Hamas. “You had a fantastic week Dudi, even though I’m sure there is a lot going on in your mind with everything that is going on back home. All of us here are on your side.”
Isner was delighted with his play throughout the match.
“I was playing from ahead pretty much for the entire match,” he said.
“I like that situation a lot given the conditions, the court, how I’m serving.
A lot went right for me today.
This is my favorite time of year. I’m off to a very good start again. I look forward to playing Washington D.C.
again (this week). I’ve played well there my whole career.”
Sela, whose one and only appearance in a final until Sunday had come in Beijing in September 2008, got off exactly to the start he was hoping to avoid.
Isner hit three aces in the first game alone and broke the Israeli in his first service game after Sela registered a double fault on break point.
Sela had managed to push Isner to a third-set tiebreak in their last meeting in the second round in Delray Beach in February, but the American was not in a charitable mood in Atlanta.
He wrapped up the first set with a love hold, winning 14 of 15 points on his first serve in the set.
Isner recorded his second break early in the second set, taking a 2-1 lead with a forehand winner. He never looked back, cruising to another title and ending Sela’s superb run in Atlanta, which saw the Israeli defeat four players ranked above him.
Despite reaching the final, Sela climbed just six places in the new ATP rankings on Monday morning to No.
88 as he was defending the ranking points he picked up this time last year by claiming the Challenger Tour title in Astana, Kazakhstan.
Sela will look to build on his excellent showing in Atlanta when he plays in Washington this week. He faces lucky loser Sam Groth (96) in the first round.
World No. 14 Richard Gasquet awaits the winner in the second round.
Despite reaching the quarterfinals in Baku, Azerbaijan last week, Shahar Pe’er plummeted on Monday 25 places to world No. 115, dropping out of the world’s top 100 for the first time this year. Pe’er also lost her status as Israel’s No. 1 women’s player, with Julia Glushko moving up two places to No. 100.
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