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John Isner Interview - Longest Tennis Match Ever
Posted on June 24, 2010
JOHN ISNER: I honestly, when I left the match, I really thought it was a dream. I didn't think that type of match was possible. So I was really expecting to wake up, in all seriousness.
No, I went back. I didn't sleep great. I only slept for four hours. I talked to Nic. He said he only slept for about three. So we're both kind of running on fumes right now.
Q. The match had its own internal logic or rhythm. Sometimes it was a little crazy or surreal. Did you feel almost a different kind of space out there? Can you talk about your feelings as the match went on and on and on yesterday?
JOHN ISNER: Yeah, I mean, yesterday I didn't know what I was thinking out there, especially once the match got past, you know, 25 All. I wasn't really thinking. I was just hitting a serve and trying to hit a forehand winner is the only thing I was doing. Fortunately that was going in on my service games. He was serving great and hopping around, you know, eight hours into the match, which was remarkable.
But going out there today, I knew I had a feeling it wasn't going to be anything like it was yesterday, although it did take, you know, 10 or so service games to finally get a break. I had a feeling it was going to be like that. It wasn't going to last any more than 20, one way or the other.
Q. You were throwing up your hands as if to say, What can I do?
JOHN ISNER: Yeah, trying to guess on a serve. I served exceptional, obviously. And he was really kind of matching me, as well. I know he served a lot of aces. And times when I did guess right. Even if I do guess right, if he hits the line, still nothing I can do. When I get back, he's on top of the net to put the ball away. It was tough.
I told myself to try not to guess so much, really just hope he misses his spot, and then that will give me a better look at the ball.
Q. Why do you think this match took so long?
JOHN ISNER: I can't explain that. Obviously both players were serving we both served really well. That's the main thing. But even in that case, you can't even imagine it going past 20 All.
Q. Was there any point you were thinking, God, I wish they played a fifth set breaker here?
JOHN ISNER: Yeah, without a doubt. 20 All yesterday I was thinking that.
Q. If I'm right, this match, from the second set when there was a service break, went 167 straight games without a service break. It's unbelievable, including all the other stats, two guys without a service break.
JOHN ISNER: Yeah. Well, I mean, really the nature of the way we both play, we both serve really well and kind of try to take chances on return games. So you combine that, the fact that we both served in this match exceptionally well, uhm, and that it's grass, you know, you'll see long stretches of play without a break. But nothing like a hundred and whatever the number was.
Q. Should they play a breaker here in the fifth set?
JOHN ISNER: I don't think so. Nothing like this, it won't happen again. Not even come close, so...
I think just keep it the same.
Q. Now that it's over, how does it feel to be part of tennis and sporting history?
JOHN ISNER: Yeah, uhm, it's great. I guess something Nic and I will share forever really. I don't think I've ever said five words to the guy prior to our match. Not that he's a bad guy. It is what it is. Now when I do see him in the locker room at other tournaments, we'll always be able to share that.
You know, like I said, I'm kind of glad it happened. Had I won in straight sets, I might be playing right now in my second round match.
Q. For tennis players, two of their biggest concerns are fitness and mental strength. Do you think you can be pretty confident in both departments after that match?
JOHN ISNER: Yes, I think so. I think especially mentally. Physically I have put in the work at Saddlebrook where I practice in Tampa, you know, with my trainers there.
You know, I put in the long hours. Prior to coming to Wimbledon, I didn't play in Eastbourne because I didn't feel fit. I had the long clay court season. So I stayed an extra eight days in Tampa where it was a hundred degrees and a hundred percent humidity. I got in pretty good shape.
My coach actually, believe it or not, said jokingly before the tournament started that I'll be able to play 10 hours. That's the truth. After practicing at Saddlebrook in Tampa in that heat, he was right.
Q. Do you think the quality of the play will be remembered or do you think the match will be remembered just for its length? How do you think the quality was from start to finish?
JOHN ISNER: Uhm, I think the quality was pretty good. I mean, you know, we both obviously just didn't want to lose our serves. If you do, that's the match.
You know, towards the end, I want to say the last three hours of yesterday's, whatever you can call it, we were both just hitting winners at will. I mean, I was so tired out there. Couldn't focus. Didn't know what I was going through. But I was slapping my forehand as hard as I could, and it kept on going in. The same goes for him.
But I think it will probably be remembered for the distance.
Q. Have you played him in a match before?
JOHN ISNER: He beat me in Queen's two years ago.
Q. Had you done much research before this game?
JOHN ISNER: I kind of knew what to expect from him.
Q. Have you had responses from other players?
JOHN ISNER: Yeah. I mean, the guys that are in the locker room, pretty much every one of them came up to me and patted me on the back or shook my hand or whatnot.
Q. How out of sorts were you by the end last night?
JOHN ISNER: Yeah, I was completely delirious. I mean, you know, I wanted to keep on playing yesterday, which I don't know why, because he was the fresher one. But, you know, I said even though it was dark and no one could see, I wanted a final verdict, win or lose. I didn't want to have to sleep on it. But it wasn't to be.
When I got in the locker room, sat down, just didn't know what to think.
Q. Talk us through what your post match routine was. What was the first thing you did? Ice bath? Eat?
JOHN ISNER: I drank a recovery shake just to get some carbs in me right away. My coach came to the locker room with a plate of pasta and a plate of a bunch of stuff, meat, and I don't know what it was.
Then actually Andy Roddick left the site and came back with takeout food for myself and my coach, believe it or not.
Q. What time did you actually go to bed?
JOHN ISNER: Probably like 12:30. And I woke up, you know, when the sun's coming up at 4:00. Never seen that before (smiling).
Q. Do you think you can keep winning? Do you think you can win another match in the tournament?
JOHN ISNER: Yes, I do.
Q. How far do you think you can go?
JOHN ISNER: I don't know about that. I'm just taking it one match at a time.
But, uhm, I'm going to do everything necessary to get myself, you know, ready for tomorrow. I know my opponent, he's not the freshest one either. Not nearly like me. But I think I can I definitely think I can win.
Q. Is there something that keeps you patient and mentally fastened on what's going on, some sort of magic word?
JOHN ISNER: No. I don't know. A lot of times in situations like that, I always find myself very, very calm and controlled.
I think I learned that in my time in college, playing a lot of, you know, pressure filled matches. Obviously it's not the magnitude that this is.
That's something that Coach Diaz at Georgia was really good at, was able to really make me a lot mentally stronger. That's one of the reasons, you know, I'm here today, what I'm doing right now.
Q. In the finish, was it the will to win or fear of failure that got you across the line?
JOHN ISNER: Oh, that's a good question. I think it was more so the will to win. Obviously in the back of my mind is, as I'm sure it was with him, I don't want to be on the losing side of this. It's going to be a little bit better to be on the winning side.
But I think it was the will to win. Not that I outwilled him. I mean, obviously he gave it his all. I just kind of was a little bit more fortunate than he was.
Q. He did look devastated. Could you imagine what it would be like?
JOHN ISNER: No, I can't. I don't even want to think about that.
Q. Do you see yourself reviewing this match one day at home again?
JOHN ISNER: Yeah, maybe if my roommate DVR'd it back home, I might have it. I don't know. We'll see.
Q. Can you take us through that last game, the shot you hit? Do you remember the winning shot?
JOHN ISNER: Yeah.
Q. Does it stick in your mind?
JOHN ISNER: Yeah. I mean, I had a look. He faltered with that missed dropshot. I was way behind the baseline. He tried to make it too good.
Obviously he didn't even make it that good. Actually slipped. Anywhere on the court, I wasn't getting to the ball. So that was fortunate.
Then I remember at 30 All I hit a great winner up the line. So at 30 40, you know, in situations like that, when you have a match point returning, you tend to get, you know, a little tight. That's just natural. I told myself just to go for it. I don't want to lose that point playing the wrong way.
If I go for my shot and miss a return, then that's fine. But on that one, I just said not to guess and really just hope he doesn't hit his spot. Fortunately for me, he didn't. I was able to put a good hit on the ball.
Q. Did you feel that serving ahead was much of an advantage in the match? Was there ever a point yesterday when you felt like you might have to retire out of exhaustion?
JOHN ISNER: Well, yeah, I said before the match, before the fifth set started, that serving ahead was going to be a big advantage. But obviously it wasn't, really. I mean, he held 63 times, you know, where he had to hold or else the match was over.
I thought it was going to be a bigger advantage than it was. I don't think that was one of the reasons that I won.
Q. Do you have any enthusiasm at all for playing men's doubles now?
JOHN ISNER: We're still in the draw right now.
Q. When do you expect to play?
JOHN ISNER: We won't play today; I know that. My partner is playing right now, with the daylight and that.
Q. What was the dialogue you had during the fifth set or with the umpire? Was there any interesting dialogue you had about a time to come off or time to end it?
JOHN ISNER: Are you talking about yesterday?
JOHN ISNER: Yes. Once it got past I think we stopped at quarter after or five after. It was getting dark. You know, he said he was having trouble seeing the ball, and so was I. Rightfully so.
So, you know, we really only had about maybe five minutes of decent daylight left. So it was the right choice to call it.
Q. Can you estimate roughly how many bananas you ate and how many bottles of water you got through over the three days? We like our statistics in the British press.
JOHN ISNER: Yeah, I'm going to say well, I think I only had about three bananas. But I had about 12 bars. Probably 30 to 40 things of water like that.
Q. Bars of what?
JOHN ISNER: Like Clif bars. It's like an energy bar.
Q. How many times did you change your shirt?
JOHN ISNER: It's not as humid here as it is in most tournaments. So I think I only changed my shirt like two or three times yesterday, believe it or not. And the one today was the same one I started the match with.
Q. What did you say when you walked off for the bathroom break, and what did you say after the match?
JOHN ISNER: I apologized because I really had to go. I didn't want to stop because none of us were taking any breaks. I'm sure both of us could have used a trainer at some point in that fifth set. Neither one of my pinky toes has any skin on 'em. I could have used some sort of taping there. I'm sure he could have used something as well.
I didn't want to disrupt the flow, but I couldn't hold it anymore.
Q. Was there any specific Manny isms that came to your mind from college at any point in that match?
JOHN ISNER: No, nothing specific. I think it's just the way that he was able to get to me when I was on court. You know, having him on the court with me. I mean, he said so much great stuff to me. It wasn't anything in particular that stuck out.
Q. What do you think this will mean to your future both on and off the court?
JOHN ISNER: You know, I think what it shows is that a lot of times, two years ago, the knock on me was that I wasn't that fit. And rightfully so. But I think I've gotten better in that department and I can still get better.
You know, I know what it takes now to be at the top of this game, you know, fitness wise. So it's just a matter of me going out there on the practice court and in the gym doing what it takes.
Q. We saw your mom was on court today with tears at the end. Have you spoken to her? What did she say?
JOHN ISNER: I haven't spoken to her yet.
Q. She was crying her eyes out.
JOHN ISNER: Yeah, she's a mom (smiling).
Q. How do you feel about this match potentially defining your career? Do you hope that some of the strength and character you've shown means you can go on and win a slam at some stage?
JOHN ISNER: Yeah. I mean, this one's obviously going to stick with me probably the rest of my life really. But I hope it doesn't define my career. I think I have what it takes, you know, to do some really big things in this game.
You know, obviously the four biggest tournaments of the year are the Grand Slams. I have probably a good seven, eight years left to try to make a good run at 'em.
So hopefully, you know, this won't be the thing that I'm most remembered about.
Q. Can you believe how far you've come since college to this point?
JOHN ISNER: Yeah, I've come a long, long way. I mean, I didn't think about going pro until my junior year in college. So I was 21. I mean, I started obviously out late playing pro at 22. This is exactly my third full year from right now that I've been playing. So, you know, I didn't know what to expect.
If I told myself if I ever got to the top 100 at any point in my career, that would be an accomplishment. But now I'm top 20, and I can go further and get higher than that.
Q. How did you feel when you woke up this morning physically? What did you do to prepare for this afternoon's match? Did you weigh yourself today and whether you lost any weight?
JOHN ISNER: I actually haven't weighed. I told myself I wanted to do that. When I go back to the locker room, I will.
But I'm one of the heaviest guys actually, I am the heaviest guy on the tour. I have a little bit of excess in the stomach area (smiling). I knew that was going to come in handy one day. It was kind of the reserve tank.
It's not that I eat unhealthy. I work hard. I just can't get rid of it.
Q. Is it still there?
JOHN ISNER: Yeah. It went down a little bit, I think (smiling).
Q. You said this was like a dream. In some ways, is this even better than a dream? And what did Andy get you for takeout?
JOHN ISNER: Yeah. I mean, I think it really is better than a dream because you can't even dream of something like this. I mean, you can dream of winning a match 22 20, maybe 34 32, but not 70 68.
Yeah, I guess in that regard it's a little bit better.
Andy just brought me all sorts of stuff. It was for my coach and my trainer. There was three boxes of pizza, all sorts of chicken and mashed potatoes, anything. I would have eaten 12 BicMacs.
Q. After shedding so much weight in the last 24 hours, do you think you would make a good face of Weight Watchers in America?
JOHN ISNER: I guess. It's not like I'm a heifer or anything (laughter). Maybe.
Q. Did you lose track of the score at points or even stop caring what the score was, because what mattered was winning that one game to put you over the hump?
JOHN ISNER: Yesterday, like I said after a certain point, maybe 25 All, I lost track of it. I was just going there, holding serve, walking to the bench deliriously, getting up and not breaking, holding. Did that for seven hours really.
Yeah, I forgot about the score.
Q. Do you know how many aces you hit?
JOHN ISNER: Yeah, I do.
Q. What are your plans to celebrate this win tonight? How are you going to spend the evening?
JOHN ISNER: I'll probably just get takeout food and get a massage and try to sleep as much as possible, because I've got to come back tomorrow and try to get it done.
Q. When did you become aware of the huge interest in the match, the fact it was on the big screen, prime time TV? What did you think of the fact that you were one of the two most famous tennis players in the world yesterday?
JOHN ISNER: Yeah, not often do I steal the show from a guy like Federer, but I think I did yesterday.
I knew it was probably a big deal around the tennis world, because this is Wimbledon. So anybody that follows tennis, all eyes are on this tournament. It was when I got back to the locker room that I realized, you know, how big of a story it was really worldwide.
Q. Are you for the tiebreaker in the fifth set?
JOHN ISNER: At Wimbledon?
JOHN ISNER: No. I think you should play it out.
Q. How many racquets did you get through?
JOHN ISNER: Yeah, you know, I usually get about seven racquets strung a match. Sometimes I'll switch every ball change. Sometimes I'll switch every two ball changes. At one point yesterday, I didn't have that luxury. All my racquets were used.
I was playing with some. When it felt a little loose, I'd pick up another one. I did that about four or five times.
Q. You weren't able to get someone to get them restrung for you?
JOHN ISNER: It wasn't necessary. That wasn't going to matter either way. I was playing with weed whacker string.