Top-seeded John Isner was eliminated in the second round of the ATP Tour’s ASB Classic on Wednesday, losing 7-6 (3), 7-6 (5) to fellow American Taylor Fritz.
On a good day for young Americans, Tennys Sandgren beat third-seeded Marco Checchinato of Italy 6-3, 6-3.
Isner’s defeat was another blow to a tournament already deprived of star power by the withdrawals of Gael Monfils, Roberto Bautista Agut and Tomas Berdych and the first-round losses of Hyeon Chung and Denis Shapovalov.
Fritz had lost to Isner in their two previous meetings but prevailed Wednesday in the face of Isner’s barrage of 26 aces. The 21-year-old Fritz, ranked 50th, managed to beat his 10th-ranked compatriot for the first time by winning a handful of key points in both tiebreaks.
“It feels great,” Fritz said. “John’s beaten me twice before and it was close.
“I really wanted to get the win on him and I knew I could. We had a lot of close points and it just feels really good to get through that.”
Fritz achieved the rare feat of breaking Isner’s serve in the fifth game of the first set. He earned three break points and Isner saved the first two with aces but Fritz converted the third for a 3-2 lead. Isner broke back immediately and held for the rest of the set to set up the tiebreak.
Fritz immediately grabbed a mini break and took a 3-0 lead. Isner battled back with two aces but couldn’t disrupt Fritz’s serve — he served 12 aces of his own — and the younger American took the set in 53 minutes.
The second set went to a tiebreaker without a service break, Fritz saving the only break point of the set in the third game. Fritz again took the early advantage, gaining a mini break on the third point and serving for a 4-1 lead.
This time Isner broke back for 4-4 but Fritz took a point against serve again at 6-4, sweeping a backhand winner across court as Isner advanced on the net.
Fritz won more tiebreaks in 2018 than any other player and he put that ability to good use Wednesday to claim his fourth win over a top-20 player.
“I like to think that one of the strengths of my game is playing under pressure and playing the big moments well,” Fritz said. “More often than not in the matches I lose that’s where I get let down.
“So I’m happy to start every year and today as well playing well under pressure and handling those big moments well.”
Meanwhile, five-time champion David Ferrer’s final appearance at the ASB Classic ended in unfortunate circumstances when he was forced to quit his second-round clash against Pablo Carreno-Busta with a calf injury.
The score was tied 1-1 in the opening set when Spain’s Ferrer was forced to withdraw. He was leading 15-0 in the third game when he swiveled awkwardly while playing a forehand near the net.
After receiving medical attention, he returned to the court to play one more point before withdrawing.
Ferrer is playing his last season on the ATP Tour and chose Auckland, which he has played for the last 14 years, as one of six tournaments on his 2019 farewell tour.