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Feliciano Lopez wins the battle of 86 aces

Feliciano Lopez celebrates his Third round victory
by Helen Gilbert
Monday 30 June 2014

Forget prize money, the line judges and spectators might soon start demanding danger money. Those on No.3 Court certainly found themselves in the firing line during the clash between America’s John Isner and Feliciano Lopez. The men produced an astonishing 86 aces during the two hour 47 minute encounter until the Spaniard eventually upended the No.9 seed 6-7(8) 7-6(8), 7-6(7), 7-5 to set up a fourth-round meeting with No.5 seed Stan Wawrinka.

The match was always going to be dominated by big serving. At 6ft 10in, Inser has consistently hits serves in the 130mph region and, although sporting a heavily taped left knee, it was no different on Monday. The bullets came; the line judges ducked and the spectators dodged.

Tellingly it wasn’t until the 11th game of the second set that the first break point of the match arose on Isner’s serve. Until this point rallies had been few and far between and it appeared that he had momentarily gone to sleep. Sluggish and flat of foot he hit a string of errors as Lopez pinned him to the back wing with sparkling groundstrokes. The 29-year-old eventually served his way out of trouble but was required to stave off four break points in the process.

Come the second set tie-break Lopez upped the bar. He had entered the duel on a six-match winning streak having successfully defended his Eastbourne title, and also made the finals of Queen’s the weekend before that. Whenever an exchange of balls took place, the world No.26 would often employ penetrating, deep slice groundstrokes and make bold advances to the net.

When the left-hander generated a magnificent winner down the line, he’d carved out a mini-break. Although two set points came and went, a netted ball by Isner on the third levelled the match at one set apiece.

Although rain suspended play midway through the third set, prompting jeers from the spectators, it did little to break the players’ concentration and when the match resumed, the third set would be decided on a tie-break for a third time.

Isner is a chap who likes to set records. He became a household name when he played the longest tennis match in history, defeating Mahut 70-68 in a fifth set duel that spanned three days here on the Wimbledon lawns in 2010. In his second round match against Nieminen he set the second longest tie-break record in Wimbledon history when he won it 19-17, so one might assume he’d be used to these by now. Except this time round, Lopez raced to a 4-0 lead and was soon in charge of three set points. The set escaped Isner when he blasted an easy volley into the trams.

Eventually the first break of the match came in the 11th game of fourth set. Lopez, who going into the match trailing Isner 2-1 in the head to head, earned it with a splendid cross court winner, which whistled past Isner at the net prompting the Spaniard to leap in the air in delight. He closed out the match to love with an ace down the T on the very next game.

Lopez admitted he was happy to pull through the match. “When you beat players like John, when you go through a difficult match like this, you have to be proud of yourself. To beat Johnny on that court is such is difficult task, and I made it. To play him, it's always difficult. There is no rhythm; a lot of aces; a lot of points where you don't play. You have to be always aware until the chance is coming. This what I tried to do during the whole match. At the same point, it's tough to be focus all the time.”

Looking ahead to his fourth-round match up with Wawrinka he added: “[It’s a] totally different match, but, yeah, he's confident. He won already three matches here, and I think I have to play very good if I want to beat Stan tomorrow.”

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