Tennis: Isner best hope for keeping US Open title in America

MASON, Ohio – Defending Western and Southern Open runner-up John Isner is back in the United States after getting dropped in the first round of the Rogers Cup event last week in Toronto and is ready to repeat the success he had last year at the Open.

Isner is the top-ranked male American tennis player but has yet to reach the semifinals of a major.  His career is best known for a Wimbledon match that lasted over 11 hours.

A tournament victory in Cincinnati for Isner would be the biggest of his career and would bolster his standing going into the US Open later this month. With only getting one match in last week in Toronto, he is hoping to win just to get more matches under his belt before going to New York City.

“I haven’t played that much this summer, hopefully I get to play a lot here,” Isner said. “Physically, I feel fine. I want as many matches as I can.”

Arguably, Isner’s biggest match he has won was during last year’s Western and Southern Open when he defeated top-ranked Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals. He lost to Rafael Nadal in last year’s finals preventing him from his first Masters 1000 tournament win.

“I played well from the get go, really had some momentum going,” Isner said. “I just got on a roll and embraced everything and at a certain point, had nothing to lose and I played like that. The crowd helped me out in that.”

Isner said he feels like he has an advantage playing in Cincinnati as he is close to his home in North Carolina.

“I am super comfortable, most Americans here are,” Isner said. “I prefer Cincinnati over a tournament like in Madrid. For me, it is better.  A lot to do here.”

Being America’s top tennis player means he gets spotted whenever he goes out to restaurants that he says he does often when he is in Cincinnati. While he might not be as recognizable as past American greats Andrei Agassi and Pete Sampras, he gets noticed as he stands 6-foot-10.

“I get noticed wherever I go being how big I am whether they know me or not,” Isner said. “I think here, a lot of players get recognized because the tennis vibe is going on here because there are fans from all over. People come to this tournament as a vacation. I was at a restaurant last night and there were a lot of tennis fans there. Great to see, great atmosphere for us players to be recognized.”

The last time an American won a title in Cincinnati was Andy Roddick’s win in 2006. Up until Roddick’s victory, Americans won 10 out of 15 Opens.

Isner enters this week’s tournament ranked No. 14 in the ATP Singles Rankings. He is the only American in the top 45. The next highest ranked American is 50th-ranked Donald Young who is not in Cincinnati’s field.

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