WASHINGTON (AP) — Speaking to reporters moments after losing his opening match at the Citi Open, John Isner swore, gave clipped answers and complained that he and fellow American Steve Johnson played on a secondary court instead of in the main stadium.
Isner, a two-time runner-up at the hard-court tuneup for the U.S. Open, hit 29 aces but failed to earn a single break point and was beaten by the 68th-ranked Johnson 6-7 (5), 6-3, 7-6 (6) on Wednesday night.
Seeded No. 5 in Washington and ranked No. 12 overall – the highest American man by nearly 50 spots – Isner bowed out quickly after winning a hard-court title in Atlanta last week.
“I didn’t like playing out there,” Isner said of being placed on Grandstand 1, instead of the nearby larger arena, where he contested the finals in 2007 and last year.
“I just didn’t think I deserved to play on that court,” he added. “Simple as that.”
Asked what about the main stadium helps him, Isner replied: “It’s just a better court.”
“I like my chances better on center court, but he beat me fair and square,” said Isner, who had a first-round bye.
Johnson only converted 1 of 2 break points, but that was enough to reach the third round. Isner erased one match point at 6-5 in the third-set tiebreaker, but at 6-all, he double-faulted, then smacked a ball out of the court. Given a second opportunity to close it, Johnson did.
As for the court assignment, Johnson said the tournament’s international TV partners chose to have higher-seeded men from other countries – No. 1 Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic, No. 2 Milos Raonic of Canada and No. 4 Kei Nishikori of Japan, who all beat American opponents Wednesday – play in the 4, 6 and 8 p.m. time slots on the Stadium Court. Isner was given the option of playing there in the day’s last match – probably starting at about 10 p.m. – or instead shifting to the smaller court, but with an earlier start time.
“It’s a pretty intimate court. People are right on you,” Johnson said. “I thought it was kind of a bummer, because (Isner) deserves to be on the big stage. But I’m not in control of that.”
In a statement relayed via a spokesperson, tournament director Jeff Newman said: “Many factors are at play in scheduling decisions, including domestic and international television, and many more. As a player who has played so well here in the past, we can appreciate it’s a tough loss (for Isner), but credit to Steve Johnson for the win.”
Raonic, a Wimbledon semifinalist, was tested by 60th-ranked Jack Sock but took the last six points of the first set, and the last five points of the second to win 7-6 (3), 7-6 (3).
Nishikori edged Sam Querrey 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, while Berdych beat qualifier Robby Ginepri 6-1, 6-4.
Two seeded men lost when Victor Estrella Burgos of the Dominican Republic beat No. 8 Feliciano Lopez 7-6 (5), 6-4, and Donald Young of the United States eliminated No. 17 Julien Benneteau 6-4, 6-3.
In women’s action, Kristina Mladenovic beat American qualifier Taylor Townsend 6-3, 6-4, and Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan stopped playing against Kurumi Nara of Japan because of a right elbow injury.
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