Isner cruises into Hall of Fame quarters

Two-time defending champion John Isner won the battle of the tallest players on the ATP tour, defeating Ivo Karlovic of Croatia 7-6 (3), 7-6 (3) on Friday. (AP/Christophe Ena)

NEWPORT, R.I. — John Isner is glad he gave Newport’s grass courts another chance. Now he can look back and joke about how he disliked playing on them.

The two-time defending champ is making another Newport run, advancing to the quarterfinal round of the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships on Wednesday by beating Adrian Mannarino of France 6-0, 7-6 (7).

"It’s funny, because when I was first professional, I played here a few times and didn’t like it too much," he said, smiling. "I remember one year I didn’t play because I didn’t want to come. Two years ago, I took a wild card here, and everything changed.

"It’s very special to me. It turned my season around that year and has gotten my summer off to a great start. I love it here. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy coming here because I like it so much."

The 6-foot-9 Isner served 13 aces in the match that lasted just 59 minutes.

The 28-year old Isner rode his big serve in winning his 12th straight match in Newport, improving his record to 11-0 in tiebreakers during the run.

"On a surface like this, the way I play, it’s not uncommon for me to play a few tiebreakers," said Isner, ranked 19th in the world coming into the week. "It’s probably one of the reasons I’m 12-0 in my last 12 matches here. If you don’t lose a tiebreaker it helps. I feel like it gives me a little bit of an advantage."

The No. 2 seeded Isner needed only 15 minutes to win the opening set, and served four aces in the second-set tiebreak. He closed it out when Mannarino hit a forehand wide off a 131 mph serve.

That came one point after Mannarino double-faulted. Isner knew the match was then in his control.

"I can imagine what kind of goes through their head," he said. "If they just slip up a little bit when it comes down to a tiebreaker, one point and the set is over. They’ve got to play solid to win a tiebreaker against me. Today was no different. He made a few mistakes, double-faulted at 7-all and that’s all it took."

It was a Wimbledon rematch for the pair. Isner retired in the third game of the previous match last month after injuring his left knee.

In other second-round play, No. 4 seed Lleyton Hewitt, a runner-up last year in Newport, needed just over an hour to defeat wild-card entrant Prakash Amritraj of India 6-2, 6-1.

The 32-year old Hewitt was one of five players in their 30s to reach the quarters, the most in the 37-year history of the tournament.

"I felt comfortable," he said of returning along with his wife and three small children, who were there to greet him in the players’ area. "I knew what I was coming to. The practice courts even play different out back than the two or three centre courts out there. I didn’t even know that last year. This year I expected it."

In other action, third-seeded Igor Sijsling of The Netherlands beat Yuichi Sugita of Japan 6-4, 1-6, 6-3; Michal Przysiezny of Poland ousted No. 8 seed Rajeev Ram of the United States 2-6, 7-5, 6-3; Michael Russell defeated fellow American Alex Kuznetsov 6-3, 6-4.

Ivo Karlovic of Croatia beat Canadian Vasek Pospisil 6-4, 1-6, 6-3, and qualifier Jan Hernych of the Czech Republic edged American Jack Sock 6-3, 4-6, 6-4.

In the last match of the day, 31-year old Nicolas Mahut of France beat American Tim Smyczek, who upset top-seeded Sam Querrey on Tuesday, 6-2, 6-4. Mahut was the Newport runner-up in 2007.

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