Moldova is a country so small that the 6-10 John Isner would have to squeeze into it. Moldova, a heretofore unknown tennis hotbed, is tucked between Ukraine and Romania and near the Black Sea. It’s one of Europe’s poorest countries.
But it has produced a tennis player who can compete on the world stage, and here he was in New York Open on Wednesday night, giving one of America’s top players fits.
Radu Albot, a 28-year-old has no ATP Tour titles, took the first set off Isner Wednesday night, looked like he was going downhill in the second, then rallied in the third to send Isner home with a 7-6 (5), 3-6, 6-3 victory at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum.
For the record, Albot has won on the Challenger level and achieved the 91st ranking in the world. He lost to Sam Querrey in the third round of the U.S. Open last year after making it through the qualifying tournament.
Because it’s New York, you just knew that Albot would have his supporters. So the “C’mon Radu” shouts weren’t entirely surprising. And he looked like he belonged as much as Isner looked out of sorts.
It’s surprising for the nuclear-serving Isner to lose a tiebreak. But when he couldn’t make headway on Albot’s serve in the first set, he also couldn’t dominate the tiebreaker with his serve and Albot pulled away.
After Albot broke Isner in the third game of the second set, Isner changed rackets and it changed his fortunes. He broke back in the sixth, broke in the eighth game and seemed comfortable closing out the set.
Albot stiffened his defenses at the start of the third set and Isner was in for a tussle. Isner played a bad service game in the sixth and was broken. Any momentum he had built up in the second set had dissipated. Isner served 28 aces, Albot served one — it was enough.
Isner was looking for first tour match win of the season after going out in the first rounds in New Zealand and the Australian Open. He scored a singles victory for the U.S. Davis Cup team in its recent first-round victory over Serbia.
Ryan Harrison was watching the match on television in a ground level corridor and remarked that the black courts of the New York Open were definitely pro Albot. “They are pretty slow and they definitely favor a slow-court player like Albot,” he said. “John can’t take full advantage of his serve or being 6-10.”
At 5-9, Radu Albot was able to make one of the big statements of his career and put Moldova on the map at the New York Open.
New York Open at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum
DAY SESSION, 1 p.m.
Frances Tiafoe vs. Dudi Sela
Ryan Harrison vs. Ivo Karlovic
Kevin Anderson vs. Ernesto Escobedo
NIGHT SESSION, 7:30 p.m.
Mikhail Youzhny vs. Sam Querrey
Bob and Mike Bryan vs. Jeremy Chardy and Fabrice Martin