Isner had dropped his opening two matches of the year, at the ASB Classic in Auckland (l. to Fritz) and the Australian Open (l. to Opelka). But the top American has never lost to Tomic (3-0), and he remained perfect behind his biggest weapon, hitting 27 aces and never facing a break point.
“I had a long time to stew over again not doing well Down Under. It was very tough… I certainly wasn’t feeling too great about my game after that,” said Isner, who lost to countryman Reilly Opelka nearly a month ago, on 14 January. “But the only thing you can do is just continue to keep working hard. For me, keep working on my body. And I used that time to really get stronger. You have to look at it as a blessing in disguise. It really just gave me a bunch of time to keep working hard in the gym, but most importantly just enjoying time with my family.”
Isner and his wife, Madison, have a five-month-old baby girl named Hunter. “I really was very eager to get out here and play. I’m very happy to win,” Isner said.
Tomic, however, held his own. The four-time ATP Tour titlist didn’t face a break point until the final game, when Isner converted on his sixth chance to reach the quarter-finals of the ATP 250 event.
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Another big server tallied up the aces (37) and didn’t face a break point, but Croatia’s Ivo Karlovic was eliminated. The 39-year-old fell to Moldova’s Radu Albot 6-7(4), 7-6(4), 7-6(5). All four of Karlovic’s losses this season have come in final-set tie-breaks. Albot will meet second seed Frances Tiafoe of the U.S. or World No. 143 Jason Jung for a place in the quarter-finals.
Italy’s Paolo Lorenzi fought his way into his first quarter-final of the year. The 37-year-old Rome native beat American Ryan Harrison 4-6, 6-4, 6-4. Lorenzi will meet Canadian qualifier Brayden Schnur or third seed Steve Johnson of the U.S.