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US Open Preview: John Isner’s Badge Of Honor

By Justin Chaffee

It’s just simple. Just keep fighting and keep believing, try not to show weakness out there.” – John Isner

            After a covid plagued year, John Isner has found his tennis game again. In August, he won his sixth Atlanta title, which puts him in the company with the likes of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic as the fourth active player to lift six trophies at a tour level tournament. Isner is the third American man in the Open Era to win at least six titles at the same tournament, joining Pete Sampras with seven and Andre Agassi with six. Lastly, he is the oldest American champion on the ATP Tour since Jimmy Connors at thirty-seven in 1989.

            The key to John’s resurgence has been his mental and physical approach to the game. His home life is filled with family and happiness, and he takes care of his body on a daily basis by stretching and hitting the gym. His ranking had dipped a bit because of covid and family commitments, but it has also conserved Isner’s energy. This summer, fresh off his Atlanta win, Isner made a run at the 2020 Canadian Open beating top players like Gail Monfils, Andrey Rublev and Cristian Garin. He was ultimately out-played in the semi-finals by the top seed and eventually champion, Daniel Medvedev.

            After taking a week off, Isner continued his excellent play at the Cincinnati Masters. During brutal humidity he defeated Cameron Norrie in three sets and then played a tough match against the talented eleventh seed Jannik Sinner. Isner expressed one of his best attributes in this match, his competitiveness. Sinner captured the first set and was up a mini break in the second set tie-break, but Isner hung in there and snuck out the second set tie-break. He carried that momentum into the third set to capture a break and the match 6-4. In the next round, Isner looked a little fatigued and lost in the next round to an in-form Benoit Paire in three sets, the first two being tie-breaks. Paire now holds a 2-1 career head to head record vs Isner.

            As Isner approaches his 500th career win (454) his spot in the history of the game is that of a successful champion. Isner has been playing in arguably the greatest era that tennis has seen with the big three Djokovic, Federer and Nadal dominating majors as well as Masters 1000 titles. In 2018, Isner broke through to capture his first Masters 1000 title in Miami and he qualified for the year ending Masters Cup, by finishing ranked no. 8 in the world. The question remains is, is playing in this current era of tennis a blessing or a curse? As tough and exciting as this era is, Isner plays with a badge of honor. He made it to the Semi-finals of Wimbledon in 2018 and is also a two-time Quarterfinalist at the Us Open (2011, 2018). Sure, Isner is known for his huge serve and is currently in second place with the most aces of all time a little over 13,000 and the odds that he will be the title holder over Ivo Karlovic of this impressive stat is just a matter of time.

Allow us not to overlook the fact that Isner is the definition of a true champion. He’s an intense competitor, winning the longest match in history at Wimbledon in 2010 solidifies that. Perhaps the most impressive element in Isner’s career is that he is consistent in a sport that demands it every single day. For ten straight years Isner finished in the Top 20 (2009-2019). Off court, Isner has a good heart and takes time to give back to the fans. In 2019, Isner launched The Isner Family Foundation which provides support to hospitals in the Dallas-Fort Worth area to contribute towards others receiving world class treatment to aid in their own battles. His Mother’s battle and victory of cancer was one of the inspirations for creating his foundation.

            Now, as the 2021 US Open approaches, Isner will be looking to make a run at his home major. His game is right, his mentality is strong, and his fitness is there. If he can get a good draw, it will only help him inflict his will in the tournament and do some damage. At 36, Isner has proven that he can still play his best tennis and is a player that maximizes his potential. With an impressive tennis resume, Isner embodies a champion and role model on and off the court and when the time does come when he hits his final ace, he will certainly be known for much more than a serve. For now, we will be rooting for the American to keep fighting, keep believing and in that Carolina Panthers mentality that he embodies so well, keep pounding.

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  • Scoop Malinowski · August 22, 2021 at 6:38 pm

    Isner has been a hero for American tennis for a decade. He is one of the best competitors on the ATP Tour, he has beaten everyone at the top of the game and his results have been consistent. My favorite Isner memory was the year he won Miami, first round on grandstand he won the first set vs Vesely, lost the second, it was hot, around 6 at night. The start of the third set, Isner looked flat and dispirited. I was sitting with good friend Harry Cicma, a former Rutgers University player and friend of Isner. He suddenly noticed like I did that Isner needed a spark. So he cheered, “Let’s go Georgia!” “Let’s go Isner!” Between points. And I swear, it worked. Isner actually picked it up and took over the match. Just a couple of cheers of support sparked Big John Isner to beat Vesely and then the next round, the next and the finals, Isner won the tournament! I interviewed Isner that week, didn’t mention Cicma’s cheering, and Isner discussed how importatn fan support is for him and that’s a major reason why he loved college tennis so much.

  • Justin Chaffee · August 23, 2021 at 5:40 am

    Thanks Scoop!



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