American John Isner is looking to continue his dominance of the Atlanta Open this week, as the former Georgia Bulldog returns home for the first leg of the US Open Series.
The Atlanta Open is the first of six tournaments that will lead up to the US Open in New York, which takes place beginning August 26.
Isner Has Dominated in Atlanta
While the series includes ATP Masters 1000 events later on, it starts out with lighter fields in the build-up to the year’s final Grand Slam event. Atlanta is only a 250-point tournament, meaning it draws a relatively weak field, with the world elite skipping it to rest up for larger tournaments in August.
But the tournament has proven to be an important one for Isner, who currently holds the No. 14 ranking in the world. He’s won the Atlanta Open five of the past six years, and comes in this year as the top seed. He’s also the betting favorite: as of Tuesday afternoon, online bookmaker Betfair had the American as the 14/5 pick to win the tournament ahead of players like Grigor Dimitrov (29/5) and Alex De Minaur (28/5).
That means Isner won’t have to deal with the likes of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, or Rafael Nadal over the next week as he works his way through the 28-player field. But that doesn’t mean that he thinks winning will be easy.
“I’m going to have to install some confidence from the fact that I’ve played so well in Atlanta in previous years,” Isner said to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It won’t be as easy as it was last year, the field for Atlanta is…incredibly tough. [But] there’s something about going back to a place that you feel very comfortable in, and Atlanta is certainly that place for me.”
Isner missed time this year after suffering a foot injury while losing to Federer in the final of the Miami Open in March. While he made it back for Wimbledon, he wasn’t at his best, losing in the second round to Mikhail Kukushkin.
Isner Rebounding From Foot Injury
But the 34-year-old could be rounding into form. Last week, he won the Hall of Fame Open in Newport, Rhode Island, and another win in Atlanta could give him momentum as he builds towards the US Open.
“I’ve definitely lacked court time in the last three months,” Isner said after winning in Newport. “The best way to get back in shape is by spending time on the court and playing matches, which is the most important thing. I haven’t played many tournaments this year, but I still feel like I’ve had a pretty good year.”
As one of the top four seeds, Isner received a first-round bye in Atlanta, and will start his tournament against the winner of a match between Alexander Bublik – Isner’s final opponent in Newport – and American Reilly Opelka.
No matter how impressive Isner looks this week, however, he won’t be considered a favorite at the US Open. FanDuel Sportsbook currently has him listed at 80/1 to win the Grand Slam, with Djokovic (+125), Nadal (+500) and Federer (+650) considered the favorites.