MASON, Ohio -- Andy Murray saved two match points to beat defending finalist John Isner 6-7 (3), 6-4, 7-6 (2) to advance to the quarterfinals of the Western & Southern Open on Thursday. Murray will play either Roger Federer or Gael Monfils.
The match featured just one break of serve and was played at a very high-quality through the end. Isner fired 21 aces to 14 for Murray, and he executed off the baseline and at the net with a heightened level of aggression. Isner finished the match with 46 winners to 46 unforced errors, while Murray kept the cleaner sheet, with 27 winners and 21 unforced errors.
"It was a really clean match until the end of the third," Murray said.
Rankings-wise this was Murray's second-best win since Wimbledon last year. With no breaks of serve in the first set, Murray got the mini-break early in the tiebreaker at 3-1. But he put an easy mid-court forehand into the middle of the net to relinquish the advantage, and Isner raced away with the next six points behind big serving and returns to take the set. Murray rebounded by immediately breaking Isner in the first game of the second set and holding his serve to even the match at a set a piece.
Isner's chance came when Murray double-faulted while serving at 5-6, 30-all in the third. Isner set up the point perfectly with an aggressive return and came in behind a heavy approach shot to Murray's backhand corner. But the Brit put a passing shot right at Isner's feet and he put the backhand volley into the tape. He earned his second match point in the game with a big inside-out forehand, but again he could not convert. Murray finally held serve with a forehand pass to set up game point and took the match to the tiebreak on an ace. He then played the cleaner tiebreaker to secure the win.
"I didn't convert in the end," Isner said. "I could very easily be sitting here the winner. That's how this sport is. There are really close margins, especially with matches that I play."
The match was Isner's best of this summer hard court season, which as seen him win a title in Atlanta before going winless in his next two tournaments. But this should be a confidence-boosting loss for the top-ranked American as he heads home to North Carolina to play the Winston-Salem Open next week.
"Maybe tomorrow I'll look back on it to give me some confidence," Isner said. "I'm playing well and I'm feeling good. It's disappointing to lose."
Watch some of the superlative shot-making from both men below: