JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — John Isner loves playing as the favorite, particularly to a barking crowd.
"I am so thrilled to have a tournament back in the South and especially in Atlanta," said Isner, a four-time All-American at Georgia from 2004-07. "A lot of Bulldog fans reside in Atlanta, so it's good to have them on my side."
Isner took less than an hour in broiling temperatures to beat Michael Russell 6-1, 6-2 in the quarterfinals of the Atlanta Tennis Championships on Friday. The second-seeded Isner, who rose to tennis fame with a record-long match at Wimbledon, showed why he's one of the ATP tour's service leaders with 11 aces and an 89 percentage on first serves.
He will face South Africa's Kevin Anderson, a 6-3, 6-4 winner over Lukas Lacko of Slovakia, in the semifinals Saturday.
Officials at the Atlanta Athletic Club said the surface of the stadium court was 102 degrees, but Isner moved his feet more swiftly than he showed in a second-round victory Wednesday over left-hander Gilles Muller that lasted more than 2½ hours.
"I remember just standing out there, not that I was feeling tired, it's just that sun is so intense," Isner said. "It's brutal when you're out there and you can't get a break from the sun, you can't get a breeze out there, so it's really tough."
Isner's record five-set match at Wimbledon took three days and over 11 hours to complete. He breezed past Russell in 56 minutes.
Despite the oppressive heat, Isner could see the ball more easily than he did against Muller, allowing him to keep up a steady rhythm on his returns.
"I remember a couple of times the other night, he'd hit a shot, and I'd overrun it sometimes and I'd under-run other times," Isner said. "So the timing of my footwork was a lot better."
Isner was also joined in the semifinals by Andy Roddick, who defeated Xavier Malisse Friday night.