John Isner smashes the ball back across the court to Kevin Anderson during the semi-final round of the Atlanta Tennis Championships on Saturday.
JOHNS CREEK -- It will be a Fish vs. a Bulldog in the singles final of the inaugural Atlanta Tennis Championships.
The former is No. 6 seed Mardy Fish, who came up with key points to upset the tournament's top seed, Andy Roddick, for a 7-6 (5), 6-3 victory in one semifinal Saturday at Atlanta Athletic Club.
The latter is No. 2 seed and former Georgia standout John Isner, who was pushed to the limit by Kevin Anderson and a triple-digit heat index, but survived for a 6-3, 6-7 (7), 6-3 win in the other semi.
The two will square off for the championships today at approximately 3 p.m. following the doubles final that will pit Rajeev Ram and Scott Lipsky against either Rohan Bopanna and Kristof Vliegen or Stephan Huss and Andre Na, which begins at 1:30 p.m.
For Fish, it is a chance for his second straight ATP World Tour title after winning the grass-court event at Newport, R.I., two weeks ago.
And an upset over Roddick, his doubles partner in this tournament and the No. 9-ranked player in the world who had beaten him in their last nine meetings, is an even more positive sign of his game right now.
"It feels good to continue to play well," said Fish, who ran his current winning streak to nine straight matches, and has won 15 of his last 17 matches. "I never want to play Andy. He's one of my best friends out there, and he'd beaten me nine times in a row. So, I had to play some of my best tennis to do it."
Fish took control by winning a see-saw first set that featured plenty of long rallies and service holds until Roddick appeared to take control with a mini-break to go up 2-0 in the tie-breaker.
But an overhead smash of a Roddick lob got Fish that mini-break back and pulled him to within 3-2, and he took advantage of an unforced error for another mini-break that sent him to a 7-5 win and the first set.
Fish then took advantage of another unforced error by Roddick -- this time, an overhead into the net -- and then held off an attempted comeback for a break to go up 4-2 in the second.
It was one of only a handful of unforced errors by either player, but it was a costly one for Roddick with as well as Fish was playing.
"I lost it. I didn't see it," Roddick said. "I was going to take it in the air, but ... I didn't see it when I hit it.
"This is probably the best match I've played this week ... He just played better than I did (Saturday) night. He played really well, so I think he deserves the majority of the credit."
Isner had to battle both a scrappy opponent in Anderson, plus temperatures that reached as high as 147 degrees on the Deco Turf surface at the AAC's stadium court.
But he seemed to gain some energy when a stray cloud moved in front of the sun in the third set, dropping court temperatures to a less sweltering 113.
And he finally managed to subdue the former Illinois standout, whom he had beaten in three previous professional meetings and three other times in college, including once in Georgia's win over the Illini in the 2007 NCAA finals.
"The conditions were just brutal," said Isner, who will be playing in his fourth ATP World Tour final of the season, including winning in Auckland, New Zealand, in January. "It definitely took a lot out of me. ... I felt like the court temperature dropped significantly. I don't know the numbers, but when that cloud came over, it was a lot easier to play."
Isner had a chance to save himself some time in the hot sun after taking the first set, and then fighting of four different break points late in the second set -- all on set points -- to go up a mini-break in the tie-breaker to serve for the match at 7-6.
But the 6-foot-9 right-hander couldn't get his first serve in, and Anderson got the mini-break back, and then earned another mini-break before serving out the set to force a final set.
It looked like that third set might also be headed for a tie-breaker with each player holding serve until Anderson's serve with Isner leading 4-3.
But he squandered a 30-15 lead, and then double faulted two points later to give Isner the break and a 5-3 lead.
"I knew it was a big point," Anderson said. "Obviously, that was a pretty disappointing way to get broken without making him work for it. It comes down to a point here and there, and that was one of them."
Isner then rallied after going down love-30 in his next service game, and shook off the distraction of the lightning siren for the club's golf course going off on match point, to finally end it after two hours and 29 minutes.
"I caught me a little bit off guard," Isner said of the siren. "But I knew it wasn't going to go away anytime soon. So, I just tried to put it out of my mind and just go out and hit my spot on my serve. ... I was just trying to get the hell off the court."
Isner wasn't off the court long as he had to turn around after a few hours rest and play his doubles semifinal with James Blake against Scott Lipsky and Rajeev Ram, which Lipsky and Ram took 7-6 (5), 7-6 (5).
And having already played a two-hour, 33-minute marathon against Gilles Muller in Wednesday's second round, Isner will have to muster his strength one more time this afternoon against Fish.
"It's going to be tough," Isner said. "(Fish or Roddick) are going to have to play, so they're going to have less rest than me. The temperature will be a little nicer for them.
"I've been in this situation before. I've just got to take care of my body and hydrate and fuel up and hopefully feel fit to go (today)."