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Ex-UGA tennis star Isner one of two U.S. men left at Aussie Open

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

MELBOURNE, Australia --

Former Georgia Bulldog John Isner is one of two American men left standing at the Australian Open.

Isner advanced to the fourth round along with Andy Roddick. It's only the second time the 24-year-old player has gone that far at a Grand Slam.

Fresh off his first ATP title win in Auckland this month, the big-serving Isner, who led Georgia to the 2007 NCAA team championship, defeated 12th-seeded French phenom Gael Monfils, 6-1, 4-6, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5).

Until he defeated Roddick in the third round at the U.S. Open, Isner hadn't gotten past the first round of his last five majors. But his strong performance at Melbourne Park doesn't surprise him.

"I've worked hard in the offseason, I put in the time," said Isner, ranked 28th. "I kind of deserve to be where I am now."

Andy Murray, who faces Isner, said he may have the best serve on the tour.

"He gives guys a lot of problems," Murray said. "He's 6-foot-9-inches with a huge serve."

That serve and his aggressive playing style boosted Isner into the top 50 for the first time in 2009 . He is among the top American men in the ATP rankings, behind No. 7 Roddick and ahead of No. 29 Sam Querrey.

Roddick advanced with a 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (3) over Feliciano Lopez of Spain

In September, Isner outplayed Roddick to reach the fourth round of the U.S. Open. He won a fifth-set tiebreaker and finished with 38 aces.

He hasn't lost a match in 2010, and his success makes him a candidate for the U.S. Davis Cup team. Veterans Roddick and James Blake have decided not to play this year.

But his focus is on Murray, who has not dropped a set in the tournament.

It will be their first meeting, and Isner noted Murray was "good at everything."

"It's going to be a challenge to hold serve," Isner said. "That's going to be my No. 1 focus, first and foremost, is holding serve, and taking it from there. As long as I'm doing that, I know I'll be in the match."

Yet he doesn't seem worried at all, still riding the momentum of his Auckland success.

"I know that's where my ranking is going, and I'm going to get there," said Isner, . "After beating (Roddick), there's nobody I'm scared to play. If I play my game and I play well, I like to think I can beat anybody."

That includes Murray.

"Even though he hasn't won a Slam, he's always a guy that's going to be heard from," Isner said. "I think that's the same here. Hopefully, I can put an end to his run."