John Isner gives U.S. early lead over Canada at ATP Cup

John Isner beats Canada’s Brayden Schnur 6-1, 6-4 in 66 minutes to give the United States a 1-0 lead at the ATP Cup.

Off to a winning start: John Isner waves after beating Canada’s Brayden Schnur in Sydney on Sunday.   -  AP

John Isner beat Canada’s Brayden Schnur 6-1, 6-4 in 66 minutes to give the United States an early 1-0 lead at the ATP Cup on Sunday.

Schnur was a late replacement for Denis Shapovalov, who withdrew from the opening singles match Sunday due to fatigue. The Canadian is recovering from having contracted COVID-19 at a recent tournament in the Middle East.

Isner saved the only break point he faced.

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“I surprised myself with how well I played out here,” Isner said in his on-court interview. “You always work hard in the off-season, but you never really know what could happen in that first match of the year.”

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Isner broke twice in the first set and used his strong serve to capitalise on the advantage. The American hit 10 aces and won 46 percent of his return points. “I actually really like this court. It’s not too fast, which I prefer. It gives me a little time to swing out on my shots being so big. That helps me out a lot,” Isner said.

The team format sees two singles matches played and a concluding doubles.

In the other day match on Sunday, defending champion Russia got off to a strong start when Roman Safiullin beat Arthur Rinderknech of France 2-6, 7-5, 6-3. In night matches, Italy plays Australia and Germany takes on Britain.

On the opening day on Saturday, Argentina and Spain both cruised to 3-0 victories over Georgia and Chile, respectively. Serbia, despite playing without No. 1 Novak Djokovic, beat Norway 2-1 and Poland took advantage of Stefanos Tsitsipas’ injury-enforced absence in singles to beat Greece 2-1.

The 16 teams are dividing into four groups, with the winners of each group advancing to the semifinals on January 7 and 8. The final is scheduled for January 9.

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