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John Isner: Eyes on the prize

John Isner won his fifth title in Atlanta at the end of July, continuing his best-ever year on the men's pro circuit.

John Isner played a key role in Team World’s Laver Cup campaign in 2017. He returns in 2018 with his eyes on a Cup-winning run in Chicago.

Milestones are piling up for the likeable American in 2018.

The American won his first ATP Masters 1000 title in Miami in April, beating three top six-ranked players to claim the biggest title of his career. At 33, he became the oldest first-time Masters 1000 champion since the series began in 1990.

He hit his 10,000th career ace – becoming only the fourth player to do so – in Houston a few weeks later.

A career-best run followed at Wimbledon, reaching his first Grand Slam semifinal in his 41st main draw appearance.

“This is amazing,” Isner said at the All England Club. “It’s by far the best Grand Slam I’ve ever played in my career, and I’ve been playing for 11 years. I’m super happy. To do it here at Wimbledon makes it even a little bit more special.”

Just this week, Isner served up his fifth title in Atlanta, beating compatriot Ryan Harrison in a three-set final, where he saved four of five break points to claim victory. The wins keep coming.

John Isner celebrates winning the second set against South Africa's Kevin Anderson during their men's singles semi-final match on the eleventh day of the 2018 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Lawn Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on July 13, 2018.
John Isner reached a maiden Wimbledon semifinal in July, losing a near seven-hour thriller against Kevin Anderson.

Marathon Man

Isner has a long history at Wimbledon, etching his name in the record book with a marathon first round match in 2010, which he won an eye-popping 70-68 in the fifth set against Nicolas Mahut. The 11-hour match was the longest in the sport’s history.

He made his maiden Grand Slam semifinal this year almost as memorable – with the near seven-hour battle with soon-to-be Team World teammate Kevin Anderson becoming the second longest match. Beaten 26-24 in the fifth set, Isner came within a few points of a Grand Slam final appearance.

Yet there are still positives to celebrate, with the performance pushing Isner to a new career-high ranking of No.8.

Road Less Travelled

For the late-blooming Isner, taking a different path to success is not foreign. He was nine when he started playing tennis and did not turn professional until he was 22. He instead opted to hone his skills at the University of Georgia. “College tennis for me was the perfect avenue to where I am now,” Isner said.

“For players that need to develop their game at 18, 19, 20 years old, it’s the right thing to do because you have so much time to play professional tennis.”

Isner is proving that now, producing his career-best results as a 33-year-old.

I’m feeling as good as I’ve ever felt – John Isner

“I’m feeling as good as I’ve ever felt,” he admitted.

“To me it’s actually not that surprising because I think in today’s day and age with the improved training, everything we know now to take care of yourself, you should get better with age.

“Now, there will be a certain point where you kind of hit the top of the hill and you go down. But I think people in their early 30s – if you’re doing all the right things – that should be the best tennis you can play in your whole career. I think that’s the case for me.”

Imminent Parenthood

Isner also attributes happiness off court for his recent success.

He married long-time girlfriend Madison McKinley in December 2017 and the couple are soon to be parents. “I’m in a very, very good spot personally. My wife and I, we’re very happy,” Isner said.

“We have a lot of good people around us. We’re expecting our first child in September, as well. So there’s a lot of very cool things going on right now, life-changing things.
“It certainly puts perspective on tennis. I think takes a lot of pressure off of tennis. That’s one of the reasons I’ve been playing pretty well this year, is I’m in a good spot. I wouldn’t change anything right now for where I am. It’s perfect.”

John Isner returns for a second appearance at the Laver Cup representing Team World.
John Isner returns in September for a second appearance at the Laver Cup representing Team World.

Isner and the Laver Cup

Isner is looking forward to a second outing with Team World, citing the inaugural Laver Cup in Prague as one of his highlights of 2017.

We all had a great time playing the Laver Cup in Prague last year and I’m very excited to have the chance to join Team World and play the event at home in the United States, in Chicago, this year.

“We all had a great time playing the Laver Cup in Prague last year and I’m very excited to have the chance to join Team World and play the event at home in the United States, in Chicago, this year.

“The Laver Cup is a brilliant format, getting the top players together and having the chance to play as a team is very special, and it will only continue to build.”

“I’ve had some great matches and rivalries with this group of guys over the years, even going back to our college days with Kevin, and of course after what happened at Wimbledon, it will be nice to have Kevin on my side of the net, along with Delpo, Diego and Nick.”

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