Top-seeded John Isner saved two match points then dominated the closing tie-breaker to beat Kevin Anderson 6-7 (3/7), 7-6 (7/2), 7-6 (7/2) Sunday to win the ATP Atlanta Open.
In a match billed as the tallest final in the history of the ATP Tour, the 2.06-meter Isner fired 24 aces to the 21 of the 2.03m Anderson and saved all 11 break points he faced.
That included two match points for South Africa's second-seeded Anderson in the 12th game of the third set, when Isner fended off one with a 143-mph service winner and survived another when Anderson nudged a backhand long.
Having held serve to knot the set at 6-6, Isner didn't give Anderson any more chances. He raced to a 3-0 lead in the tiebreaker and took a 6-1 lead with a pair of booming serves. Anderson saved one match point with a service winner of his own before netting a backhand on the final point.
With his seventh ATP title -- a first in Atlanta after runner-up finishes here in 2010 and 2011 -- Isner will return to the top 20 of the world rankings on Monday.
He nabbed his second trophy of the season to go with the one he captured in Houston in April, and capped a return from the left knee injury that saw him retire from his first-round match at Wimbledon.
"This is a tournament where I could've been out in my first match," Isner said. "I lived on the edge all week and seemed to come through each and every time. It's very encouraging.
"I've been on the wrong end of a final that close before -- maybe not three tie-breakers close, but super close, having match point, having a lot of chances -- so it feels good to be on the other end of that. I never wavered. I believed that even at 0-40 that I could still hold on and was able to come up with the goods."
Anderson, another big server whose rivalry with Isner dates back to their US university days, saved the only break point he faced in the two hour, 55 minute encounter, but he had plenty of missed opportunities to regret.
His first break chance came in the 10th game of the opening set, when Isner battled back from 15-40 down and went on to force the tiebreaker.
They dueled to 3-3 before Anderson won four straight points to pocket the set.
Anderson saved the only break point he faced in the second game of the second set. He then missed two chances to break Isner in the next game, and the top seed eventually made him pay in the tiebreaker -- reeling off six straight points to force the decisive third set.
"He stays in there," Anderson said. "He serves well, he plays well when it matters, and he definitely played two better tie-breaks than me."
"It's definitely disappointing not to win today," added Anderson, whose most recent title came at Delray Beach in 2012. "I felt I gave myself a good chance, but I'm not going to let it get me down. I'll be ready to go next week."