Nick Kyrgios and three-time defending champion John Isner battled for the 2016 Atlanta Open title.
With wins under his belt against Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, and two Grand Slam quarterfinal appearances before he turned 20, Nick Kyrgios entered the 2016 season as one of the brightest young talents in the men’s game. The Australian got off to a quick start that year by winning his first singles title in Marseille, France, and reaching the semifinals of the Masters event in Miami, which propelled him to the top 20 for the first time.
His results over the next several months were solid, but he failed to advance to a final over the clay- and grass-court stretches of the season. Kicking off his summer hard-court run at the Masters event in Canada, Kyrgios fell in the first round to the young home favorite Denis Shapovalov, ranked 370 in the world.
Rebounding from that loss, the world No. 18 next played the Atlanta Open. Seeded second, he played through to his projected spot in the draw by reaching the final, going the distance in two of his three matches along the way. In the championship match, he’d face John Isner, the most prolific winner in the young tournament’s history. The top seed was the three-time defending champion and had reached the final on two other occasions.
When Kyrgios beat Nadal and Federer, he joined some rather exclusive company in becoming one of only a handful of players to defeat both of them his first time out. However, he hadn’t cracked the Isner code: The two faced each other twice in 2015, with the American winning at the Masters events in Madrid and Canada on clay and hard courts, respectively.
With each player possessing massive serves, the margins were expected to be small when it came to being able to gain an advantage. Isner had a first crack early on, going up 0-40 on Kyrgios’ serve in the opening game before the second seed erased them all and held. Kyrgios had two chances later on, but Isner saved those and the two went on to a play a tiebreak.
With the heat taking its toll on Isner, Kyrgios gained a mini-break, then clinched the opener with an ace. In the second set, with the sky becoming more overcast, Isner was able to keep pace with the much-fresher Kyrgios and the two found themselves in another tiebreak. After the players exchanged mini-breaks, Isner double-faulted down 4-6, clinching the title for Kyrgios, his second of 2016.
Kyrgios became the first non-American male to win the tournament in the event’s short history.
For the third time in the 2010s, Isner reached his first final of the year after Wimbledon.
With the win, Kyrgios rose to a career-high No. 16 in the world.