Gael Monfils withstood rain delays, home crowds, 19 aces and a match point for John Isner to reach the final of the Legg Mason Washington Classic.
The acrobatic Frenchman avenged his loss to Isner at the same stage of the tournament four years ago to edge through 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(6), finishing the match at 1:15a.m.
The match started almost two hours later than its scheduled time because of the rain which interrupted play twice but when Monfils and Isner returned after the second break the American managed to take the second set to level the match and force a decider.
In the final set, Isner saved all three break points he faced, but couldn’t get break point chances himself. Monfils saved a match point in the tie break at 5-6 with an ace and then went on to clinch his only mini-break of the game to book his final spot.
"It was a bit tough in the head to go and then come back. The weather was like Wimbledon," said Monfils.
"I'm very happy. It's not finished, but almost a great achievement.
“I have had a tough year. I had an injury and a new coach. To come up strong again, it feels good."
The top seed had split with his coach Roger Rasheed last month after a three-year spell and also suffered a wrist injury that sidelined him for six weeks where he had to miss the American hardcourt swing in the spring.
Despite the testing season he’s having, the Paris-born showman is currently enjoying a career-high ranking of No7 and should he win the title in Washington D.C, he will rise to the No2 spot in the US Open Series standings.
The top three in the standings have a chance of earning additional prize money (up to $1million) should they win the US Open.
The 24-year-old Monfils will play his first final of the year against Czech former top tenner, Radek Stepanek, who is in his first championship match since he finished runner-up to Andy Roddick in Brisbane in January last year.
Monfils beat Stepanek – the oldest player in the top 100 – on the clay of Hamburg less than two weeks ago and leads the world No54 5-2 head-to-head.