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Saturday, August 30, 2014
The guy who drives John Isner nuts

By Greg Garber

NEW YORK -- There's something about Philipp Kohlschreiber that doesn't agree with John Isner.

The feisty, fiery German is the fly in Isner's ointment, the oil in his water. Giving 12 inches to the towering American, playing in a stadium that was almost entirely against him, Kohlschreiber defiantly beat Isner at his own game.

The No. 22 seed entered the match with a losing record in tiebreakers, while the hard-serving Isner had won 20 more than he had lost. And yet, it was Kohlschreiber who elevated his game in the ultimate tennis crucible, beating Isner 7-6 (4), 4-6, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (4).

John Isner
For the third straight year, Philipp Kohlschreiber ended John Isner's run at the US Open.

Incredibly, it was the third year in a row that the 30-year-old German has beaten Isner in the third round of the US Open. Two years ago, their five-set match ended at 2:26 a.m., tying a US Open record. If they ever do a remake of "Groundhog Day," Isner is a candidate of the lead.

Isner, seeded No. 13, is the last American man out of this US Open singles draw and that makes for some uncomfortable history. Last year was the first time in the 46 years of the Open era that no U.S. men reached the round of 16. And now, we've seen the second.

The turning point? It may have come in the first set, when Isner had a set point on Kohlschreiber's serve. The German saved it and escaped with the first set. In the third-set tiebreaker, Isner double-faulted twice, which proved to be a fatal flaw.

In the end, after 3 hours, 10 minutes, Isner had an astounding 42 aces and 77 winners. Both players were dominant with the ball in their hands; Isner had the only service break in the match, in 12 opportunities, while Kohlschreiber was 0-for-5.

Querrey broken

Coming in, Sam Querrey had one thing going for him -- one win against top-10 players in his past eight attempts. But that one, oddly enough, was against Novak Djokovic. It happened two years ago at the Paris Masters.

Djokovic's more optimistic statistic: He hasn't lost a third-round match in a Grand Slam in five years.

Ultimately, Djokovic prevailed 6-3, 6-2, 6-2. Djokovic has now won eight of his nine matches against the 26-year-old California native. Querrey was trying to equal his best US Open (and Grand Slam) effort; he reached the fourth round here twice previously and once at Wimbledon.

Querrey's strength is serving and he had 30 aces against Maximo Gonzalez in the first round. But against the best returner of serve in the game, he only managed seven -- and Djokovic managed to break him an extraordinary seven times.

The match was played in windy conditions, prompting a reporter to ask Querrey if Djokovic was a better wind player than the rest.

"He's better in any condition than other players," Querrey said, drawing laughter. "Yeah, maybe a little bit. He's just so consistent. Does such a good job of stabbing my first serve deep in the court. You just kind of feel so much pressure. You're kind of overwhelmed. Down a break early in every set.

"It was uncomfortable the whole time."

Cakewalk for Azarenka

It's been a rough year for Victoria Azarenka, who has been dogged by injuries. But in the season's last Grand Slam, her luck -- actually, her game -- is on the rise.

She won only two hard-court matches coming in, having withdrawn from Cincinnati with a right knee injury. After a 6-1, 6-1 thrashing of Elena Vesnina, Azarenka is through to the fourth round here and appears to have a reasonably clear path to a quarterfinal matchup with Eugenie Bouchard.

That's because she's a beneficiary of the suddenly seedless women's tournament. Her next opponent, Aleksandra Krunic, is a 21-year-old qualifier, who stunned Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova 6-4, 6-4 earlier in the day.

Azarenka is on a roll, winning her past six sets. The 57-minute demolition of Vesnina was her 100th Grand Slam match victory.

"Really?" Azarenka said. "Where is my cake, then? Like for real? Tonight? Thank you. Put some icing on it."

Et cetera

Nicole Gibbs was up an early break on No. 11 seed Flavia Pennetta in the opening match on Arthur Ashe, but eventually fell 6-4, 6-4. The 21-year-old Californian, ranked No. 135, is now 2-3 in matches at the majors. No. 5 Milos Raonic won in straight sets, but 34-year-old Victor Estrella Burgos of the Dominican Republic pushed him hard in a 7-6 (5), 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3) loss ... No. 8 Andy Murray defeated Andrey Kuznetsov 6-1, 7-6, 4-6, 6-2 in a match that ran 2 hours, 35 minutes ...No. 10 Kei Nishikori took care of Leonardo Mayer 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 ... No. 9 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga beat Pablo Carreno Busta 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.