John Isner and Yen-Hsun Lu squared off in the 2014 Auckland final, the last tournament before the Australian Open.
After a strong 2013 campaign that saw him win two titles and reach the Masters 1000 final in Cincinnati, John Isner started his 2014 season off at the Hopman Cup team competition. There, he suffered an ankle injury, which threatened to put an early damper on the new year with the Australian Open approaching.
Entering the tournament in Auckland, New Zealand, before the year’s first major, Isner—who won his first career title there in 2010—nevertheless managed to advance to the final, going the distance in all three of his matches. That run included a third-set tiebreak victory over a recent nemesis, Philipp Kohlschreiber, who had eliminated him from the last two US Opens.
Isner’s final-round opponent would be an unlikely one: the veteran, Yen-Hsun Lu. Advancing to the first title match of his decade-plus career, Lu had been in stellar form throughout the week, most noticeable in his semifinal win over top seed and world No. 3 David Ferrer in the semifinals.
In their only other encounter, Isner defeated Lu quite handily, romping through their quarterfinal match in Atlanta in 2011, 6-1, 6-2. Despite this being his first appearance in a championship match, Lu held steady with the third-seeded American throughout the first set as neither player was able to break serve. With the set going to a tiebreak, Isner secured a mini-break early and serving at 6-4, clinched the opener with an ace.
After an easy hold to start the second, Isner had multiple chances in the next game to break Lu, but the Chinese Taipei player fought them off to remain on serve. They stayed even throughout the rest of the second, which went to another tiebreak. Isner earned a match point at 6-5, but Lu ripped a backhand passing shot down the line to save it. Up 8-7 with the championship on his racquet, Isner struck his 23rd ace, giving him his second title in Auckland and eighth overall of his career.
Auckland was the only location outside of the U.S. Isner had won a singles title, with his other victories spread between Newport, Winston-Salem, Houston and Atlanta.
Lu’s win over Ferrer in the semifinals was the sixth top-10 victory of his career and the first since 2012, when Ferrer retired against him in Beijing.
The last time an American reached the final in Auckland before Isner’s title-winning runs was in 2000, when Michael Chang lost to Magnus Norman.