Saturday, February 25, 2012

Isner gave notice, now just kicking ass

John Isner did both himself and the ATP a favor years ago when he decided to forgo a pro career and enroll at the University of Georgia. He knew he needed time to mature and development his game

"If I turned pro four years earlier, I would have taken a lot of beatings. My confidence would have dipped, and I wouldn't have had much fun playing tennis. That might have led to burnout, which might have led to me not playing tennis anymore. (Waiting) was definitely the right decision to me."

The men on the pro circuits had four years to play around. Now the Georgia grad is not just making everyone take notice. He's become a force to be reckoned with. Once upon a time he was just the really tall guy with a huge serve. No one wanted to play him and try to lob over his 6'9" frame, much less attempt to break his serve. Even the top ranked players were susceptible to his power, as evidenced by him taking the first set from Federer in his first US Open.

But the John Isner we're seeing today is an even more complete player. His touch work around the court improved dramatically from his first year to his second year on the circuit. He's no longer the lanky kid wearing the Georgia cap in post match interviews. He's much more than the guy that's in the record books with Mahut for the longest match in history. No Isner stands ready to break into the top ten of the world's greatest players. This is especially evident after his impressive four set victory over Federer a couple weeks ago.

Although not young in tennis terms, Isner, currently ranked a career-high No. 13 in the world, has the most upside among the top ranking Americans. Roddick’s career faces a downward trajectory and the 30-year-old Fish has struggled on the Grand Slam stage. Isner’s recent four-set victory over Federer at the 2012 Davis Cup rubber between the United States and Switzerland was further proof of his emergence as a contender for tennis’ big prizes – the Grand Slams.

As young Americans continue to turn pro at a young age, (19-year-old Ryan Harrison, the latest promising U.S. prospect, went pro when he was 15), Isner remains a rare breed. His modest junior career coupled with four years of collegiate tennis experience would make him an unlikely Grand Slam champion. But if his improvements in the past few years are any indication, Isner is perhaps America’s best hope to win a major championship in the near future.

He is currently the top seed at the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships in Memphis, TN and will play compatriot Donald Young in the second round.

Isner would likely already be in the top ten were it not for a slow start to 2011. But it's that early lull last season that has this fan confident that we've yet to see the best from Big John. The kid that cut his teeth in front of raucous NCAA crowds is poised for a nice mid-career run at tennis glory. John Isner's just another Damn Good Dawg doing great things.

But now the world is his stage.

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