John Isner, the Next American Tennis Star?
by Sean Randall | August 6th, 2007, 1:02 pm

In case you missed it this weekend, 22-year-old John Isner came out of nowhere to reach the finals of Washington yesterday in just his second career ATP event. He lost to Andy Roddick in the final, but won FIVE STRAIGHT third set tiebreaks to get the title match, an absurd number. ADHEREL

He beat Tim Henman, Ben Becker, Wayne Odesnik, Tommy Haas and then Gael Monfils, all in third set tiebreaks. Pretty amazing, and another record set by a young American that I think that may never fall (like Sam Querrey’s 10 straight aces last week!).

So just who is this kid? He’s 22-year-old four-year collegiate star out of the University of Georgia who just turned pro. Oh, and he’s 6-foot-9 and he serves freakin bombs. Upper 130s and into the 140s on the first serve, mid 120s on the second, and well placed. And he backs those blasts with some pretty deft volleys.

(If you’ve ever dreamed of what would happen if you dropped a 6-foot-10 or so kid with a huge serve/volley game and limited ground strokes on the pro tour, this is about as close as you are going to get.)

I think I had heard that Haas – Isner’s quarterfinal victim – called him an American version of Ivo Karlovic, the 6-foot-10 big-serving Croat. That’s a fair assessment.

Apart from their obvious size similarity, Isner has better volleys than Dr. Ivo and may even have the better serve. But ground strokes, return game, movement, fitness and of course experience goes to Karlovic right now. That of course can change.

You could also make the comparison to Roddick, who had that nasty serve – and still does – when he first burst on to the scene six years ago. But I think Roddick was much more dangerous than Isner from the backcourt back then meaning Andy could sneak a service break on occasion. From what I’ve seen thus far Isner is going to have a real hard time winning points on anyone’s serve.

Chris Guiccione is another big guy on the upswing, but the “Gooch” doesn’t volley as well as Isner.

So naturally the buzz is where is this kid going to go from here, or was what happened in D.C. a fluke? Patrick McEnroe has already put him on the Davis Cup team as a practice partner. The Cincinnati Masters tournament has already awarded him a wildcard, and the US Open is sure to follow.

Right now Ivo is at a career-high No. 34, and if Ivo can get to that level I see no reason that Isner can’t do the same. Plus, Isner has a massive, massive advantage over Ivo in that John’s an American. Simple as that.

Being an American means that Isner can play nearly five of the 11 months of the pro ATP tour on his home soil at hard court events including the US Open and three Masters; whereas Ivo gets one, maybe two events a year in Croatia. Big advantage to Isner.

Just imagine if Spain had events in five of the 11 months of the season, or France or Australia. Imagine the benefit players from those countries would have. Well, for whatever reason the U.S. – the tennis mecca that it is (joke) – has such an advantage.

Plus, if his ranking doesn’t allow direct entry he’ll get wildcarded into virtually any U.S. event of his choosing from here on out, and he’ll have all the top coaches coming after him.

That’s why I would be surprised if Isner didn’t reach the Top 20 and possibly crack the Top 10. And if he can develop some sort of baseline/return game then watch out. Same goes for Ivo and Gooch, of course.

Then again, maybe I am getting way ahead of myself on Isner. Maybe what happened last week was a fluke, and you could make that case.

Let’s face it at Georgia he didn’t win the NCAA singles title losing in the final – if he’s that good how could he have not won that? And then you could argue that D.C. has the slickest, fastest courts on the tour, and that he played the event with no pressure, no expectations, nothing lose, and in his last two win he beat two of the mentally frailest guys on the circuit in Haas and Monfils, who both choked under the pressure at the end of their matches.

Fair points if you want to make those arguments, but like I said if Ivo can make major in roads on the tour I see no reason why this kid can’t do the same, and then go a few steps beyond.

What will be interesting is to see how players react to playing him in Cincinnati and at the US Open now that the word is out on the kid. And credit to Roddick for closing him out yesterday.

Much like Ivo this kid is going to be one of those dangerous floaters nobody wants to play on a fast surface – though it looks as though Ivo may get seeded at the Open, good for him! And right now if you do draw Isner you are probably looking at playing a tiebreak or two, maybe even three, and you are not looking at playing a lot of long rallies or really gaining any rhythm from the ground if that’s you taste. And it doesn’t help that the kid’s confidence is sky high right now.

That said I’m sure a lot of players would love to see Roger Federer play Isner in the first round at Cincinnati. Federer of course has a way of figuring out and nullifying big servers (Roddick), so maybe against Isner – upset aside – he would again find the solution and provide insight for the rest of the tour guys on how to get the serve back. Because based on what happened last week, the players are going to need all the help they can get.

You Might Like:
John Isner Doesn’t Care That There Are No American Men In The Top 20
Want To Watch John Isner Dunk A Basketball? Of Course You Do [Video]
After Winning A 5-Setter, John Isner Says He’s And He’ll Be Fine Against Tommy Haas
John Isner: Now That I’m In The Top 10, I Want To Go Higher
John Isner And Tomas Berdych Have Pulled Out Of The Winston-Salem Open

Don't miss any tennis action, stay connected with Tennis-X

Get the FREE TX daily newsletter

23 Comments for John Isner, the Next American Tennis Star?

Dawg Fan Says:

It was incredible watching John make that run. Here’s to many more! Go Dawgs!

John (1) Says:

My opinion:

Isner had the luxury of being “unknown”. Only time will tell, now that he’s “known”.

He had a lot of 7-6 sets. One break per set and he needs a new plan.

He has a nice serve and he’s very accurate. His “serve and volley” is interesting to watch. His volley is very soft compared to his serve.

I think if he plays his second shot more like Venus (i.e. intimidating smash), he should make it to the top 10. But he also needs a return game, which seems to be missing.

AKA Maverick Says:


AKA Maverick

Mr John Esner, congratulations on beating good opponents.

Is John Esner, a young upcoming player? Yes. Will he have a long professional tennis career? Doubtful. Not to take his recent brilliant successes away from him.

Five months of the year, our players (American players) play on home ground, in front of wholehearted support from home crowd, yet it is the Europreans, Russians etc are at the top consistently. Why? ‘Work ethics’.

I had the privelige of watching practice sessions of American, Europeans and others, in one of the ATP events in USA this year. Of note, was the fact that apart from American players, every other player were working very, very hard with their practice partner’s and coaches. Some of them came straight to practice within minutes of winning their match. This is work ethics

I have been saying for years, that tennis is not a game of service alone. To win consistently and to win grand slams, one must have all round game. This is what I saw, other than American players practice, deligently.

Unfortunately, our (American) players do not seem to understand this basic fact. While service does provide opportunity for free points but establishing ones game on service alone is frought with danger. All the opponent needs to do is to return the serve and people like Andy Roddick (prior to his association with Jimmy Connor) and John Esner would find themselves not knowing what do next. Players who have based their tennis on service alone, simply do not have a clue what to do, when their service is returned. They cannot construct points.

I also must emphasize American tennis media’s role in promoting service based game. The media cannot stop singing praise of a player whose strong point is service. This is unfair to such a player. While praising good service is important and encourages the player in question but to continue selective praise does not provide a constructive feedback. The in tennis media experts, most of whom have been tennis players themselves surely know that tennis is an all round game and so must learn not to selective praise one aspect of a players game but be constructive and encourage all round game.

Upcoming younger, junior players are very easily influenced by what is promoted in the media and since service based game is praised and hammered in their brains very, very often by the media they end up being service players.

This is unfortunate. There are many and I repeat many who would benefit from all round game in their formative years but these young, naïve upcoming players are easily influenced by what is consistently emphasized by our expert media personnel.

I play in a local club. I consistently notice that new and experienced players want to serve big. They think that this is the way tennis is played. Where did these people get this thought in their minds, of course media experts, who sing praises every time Andy Roddick or John Esner score a point of their service and so the show goes on and on and on.

This kind of media promotion is an unfair guide to our players in their formative years. I do not know Mr. John Esner but I am more than sure that Mr. Asner was impressed by big servers while watching television tennis and listening to media experts comments, in his formative years and so adopted this game plan.

If the media while praising for example John Esner of the brilliant service game he produces, also in the same breath emphasizes all round game, it will provide constructive feedback not only to Mr. John Esner but also to all who watch and play tennis.

Mr John Esner, if you are reading this article, please understand, for you to consistently win and win grand slams, you must work very, very hard on being a all round player. You must consistently produce volleys, slice, spin etc with fore as well as back hand and of course you must have a consistent serve. I cannot emphasize more. If you wish to have long career in professional tennis than do not have a service based game. Be a all round player.

Look around Mr Esner, it is still not late. Players who have successful careers in tennis are players who have all round games. To name a few, Roger Federer, Nadal (not great on service but still is number two in the world), Djokovic, Richard Gasquet, Youzhny, Bagdatis, Justin Henin, Kim Clijster, Jelena Jankovic, Anna Ivanovic and Chakvetadze Andy Roddick since his association with Jimmy Connors is now becoming an all round. One can see the change but I think it is too late for Andy Roddick. He has lost valuable time on service game alone. Miracle will not happen for Andy Roddick. I wish Andy Roddick to win Grand slams but this is not going to happen.

So you see Mr Asner and media experts, for a long and successful career, all round game is, how tennis must be played.

Media experts, if you have any feeling for American tennis which has given you so much in return, fame, fortune and careers than please, please, do what is right. Consistently talk of tennis as an all round game. You will see within five to seven years Americans will have won Grand Slams and several will be in the top ten. Thank you. GOOD LUCK MR. JOHN ESNER AND AMERICAN TENNIS

AKA Maverick Says:


AKA Maverick

Apologies to Mr. John Isner for incorrectly spelling his name as Esner and Asner

John (1) Says:

Question for AKA Maverick:

Have you seen Isner play?

I get the impression that you have not.

AKA Maverick Says:


AKA Maverick

Yes, I have seen Mr. Isner play. He is a good talent and I am happy for him. But for Mr. Isner to be consistently successful in professional tennis and win grand slams, he needs to be a consistent all round player. Right now he is not a consistent all round player. Service game and few volleys will win him small laurels not first ten place neither the grand slams. What I want for Mr. Isner is to be in the first ten and maybe win grand slams. I wish to see a American winning. I wish Mr. Isner all success. Hope to see more of him. Thank you

Jeannette Says:

I’m impressed that Isner got so far in Washington, but not so much with the way he played. Very one-dimensional in my opinion and his success at the net was more because of his wingspan and not necessarily skill. His footwork was often clumsy, but it didn’t seem to matter much because most opponents couldn’t return his serve effectively to get into a rally.

In addition to that the conditions in Washington were very favorable to him: he had no pressure or expectations and a very strong cheering section (mother, coach, brother etc.) that often gave him confidence when down and swayed the crowd in his favor.

Right now its too early to see where exactly his career is going, he may have success and just as easily not have success. I’d very much like to see how he does in higher pressure situations or where he is playing with the crowd agaisnt him, those seemed to be the biggest factors influencing him.

Joanna Says:

Why is everybody praising Isner for the exact same qualities that they bash Roddick for?

AKA Maverick Says:


AKA Maverick

I must agree with Jeannette’s views on Mr. John Isner’s game. Jeannette, you are very right about everything you say. You have good understanding of tennis. It seems you and I saw the same Mr. Isner. Your assessment is fact based and unbiased. You read Mr. John Isner’s game correctly.

Here is the low down on Mr. Isner

22 years old. Too late of an age to hit professional tennis. Chances are he will not make much impact on professional tennis nor have a long career in professional tennis. He probably, if he becomes all round player, might have some success but things are not looking good for Mr John Isner. Mr John Isner will not be even near top 20.

Almost all of the people listed below would be ahead of Mr. John Isner.

Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Nikolay Davydenko, Andy Roddick, Fernando Gonzalez, Richard Gasquet, Tommy Robredo, James Blake, Tomas Berdych, Ivan Ljubicic, Tommy Haas, Andy Murray, Mikhail Youzhny, Guillermo Canas, David Ferrer, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Carlos Moya, Marcos Baghdatis, Juan Ignacio Chela, Lleyton Hewitt, Marat Safin, Dmitry Tursunov, Juan Monaco, Paul-Henri Mathieu, David Nalbandian, Jarkko Nieminen, Filippo Volandri, Robin Soderling, Ivo Karlovic and Igor Andreev

I hope I have to eat my words and Mr. John Isner proves me wrong, and all of you who read this would bash me. But please believe me, you will not get an opportunity to prove me wrong.

In 2 years time, I promise that I will take this matter up again and remind you of what I said 2 years ago was right. Good Luck. Keep Watching Tennis, Keep Enjoying Tennis and please Keep Writing on Tennis. Thank you

Greensboro Says:

Maverick….its “all around” player…not “all round”…and who knows, there was a time people said Roddick would never win a grand slam…the point is we dont know how his game will evolve. Hes got the talent to be great, so lets just wait and see instead of all trying to be analysts.

John (1) Says:

Maverick: Just curious, you say that you’re American but where were you born? My guess is Eastern Europe. Am I correct?

Rhys Says:

Maverick, 22 years old is absolutely not too late to start a pro- tennis career, especially when you can serve the way he does. And I might add that you are being remarkably long-winded in commenting on a blog.

AKA Maverick Says:


AKA Maverick

Thanks for pointing out my error. It is a typing error similar to the error you have unintentionally made when you wrote and I quote, “Hes got the talent to be great
As you very well know there is no word as Hes in English language, in the context you write, but we are all humans and such errors can and will happen, but thank you for pointing out my error ……………… Like you say, wait and see, and like I said, wait 2 years and we will see where Mr. John Isner stands.
What is the point in having a blog section, when all of us cannot express our thoughts, feelings and analysis, whether we agree with each other or not.
Thank you for your comments. Greatly appreciate it.

John (1)
Not Eastern Europe. Sorry. You are interesting. Keep guessing. But does it matter? Is there any point in getting personal, John (1).

Long winded, not at all my friend. I guess we agree to disagree.

I whole heartedly feel for US tennis and want US tennis to flourish. But one must be realistic and unbiased in what one says.

To all above
Thank you very much for your comments. I hope you find time to enjoy some great tennis in the next few weeks

JR Ewing Says:

After Cincy and the U.S. Open, John Isner will be adding 1,500 points to his ranking total. haha

Hell yeah, it can happen(if about 34 players withdraw)

Go John

Stallion Says:

John good, but he be big and tall, i wike to write on blog and talk about people

rebfed Says:

I saw John play for the first time today at the U S Open, I was able to see the second set only before the USA channel cut away; I too think the potential is there. I just hope we see a lot more of him, we need a good American man in tennis these days since both Pete and Andre retired.

Good luck and God Speed Mr. Isner. I hope to see a lot more of you on the courts.

thanx, an avid tennis watcher

p.s. I agree with Maverick, we are all entitled to “our thoughts, feelings and analysis, whether we agree to not” – isn’t this the American can that we are all fighting for?

rebfed Says:

please excuse my grammar also, the quote should have been “our thoughts…we agree OR not”…thanx

Jennifer Says:

I believe that John will make it into the top ten within the next year. I have had the opportunity to see him play several times at college and he is very good. His height is a definate advantage as well as his serve. There is a little bit of more work that needs to be done on the rest of his game, but there is time. I think that everyone should just wait and see because he just turned pro this year! Maverick, I have to respectfully disagree with you when you stated earlier that 22 is to old. I believe that people around his age are just beginning to break through with their careers. LETS GO JOHN!!!!

kive Says:

He should not have played NCAA tournaments if he had the intent to turn pro. It was an unfair advantage over true amateurs who played tennis only during their college years. Clearly, his years playing at U. of Georgia were at the professional level.

auraj Says:

I enjoyed watching Isner yesterday. He has a great serve. Though he is a wildcard, he played well on college level. I really do not think his age is a huge factor, and I believe he is one to watch. I believe he can become a seeded player.

With tennis, you just never know.

Personally, I believe he has the right stuff but needs a good coach.

Annaswamy Natarajan Says:

John Isner may well have a bright future. After seeing his play against world number one Roger Federer, my view of his game and future is:

1. His main strength is his super powerful serves.
2. He is quick to cover the court (long legs do help, don’t they!) and approach shots are superb.
3. In order for him to move from 184th rank to the top 5, he needs to spend hours practicing baseline game; otherwise he will end up as another Roddick – a man with super service, but unable to make more than 6 shots from the base line!

jessie Says:

I think that John Isner is a good tennis player and could be a great tennis player. I’m not sure why people bash Roddick.He has a great game not only his serve but the rest is definately good. People here in America judge people way too fast.They either overrate teams or players like the new york yankees,duke bb, and Roger Federer and underrate many different teams and players who beat overrated teams and or players. John is a good player and I hope that he gets to atleast the 4th round of a slam next year.

shannon Says:

screw all of you non-believers.
you obviously haven’t seen him play.
give him a chance. he is doing amazing, 22 IS NOT too late to start a tennis career, your only saying that because there are many good 19 and 20 year olds. I watched him play every day in washington, you can’t tell me a one dimensional player came so close to beating number 5 andy roddick! you gotta be joking me! GO JOHN! =)

Top story: US Open Looking At Drastic Measures To Hold Event: Held In NYC, No Fans, Charter Flights For Players