John Isner goes from College to Pro Prime Time at 2010 US Open

| August 19th, 2010, 6:44 pm

By Krystle Nicole Russin

Ages ago, as you recall, I interviewed Luke Jensen for the site, during which he stressed college sports. He insisted players develop strongly during these years. Too often, promising kids get blinded by the limelight, lifestyle and money turning pro could provide – but turning pro, they learn in time, doesn’t guarantee a top 100 spot. This, of course, counteracts the complaint every young guy has: “By the time I’m out of school, I’ll be too old to do much, too inexperienced, too…too…too…”
It’s almost time for the US Open and thinking back years ago, I recall someone telling me about the “Georgia boy” playing the pro circuit for the first time. Back then, nobody reported on his first US Open match. I didn’t think much of it myself. I was interested in grilling outside. You see players come and go, new ones every year, so to me it wasn’t a big deal. He was just another “Georgia boy” sort of-kind of-maybe making it sort of big. Back then, the top men weren’t all college graduates. They were the pros bypassing college, who lucked out for some reason or another.

John Isner’s rise into, give him a year, the top American spot makes sense. College is THE place to fine tune your skill and save a few bucks. Regular academy training is expensive. There’s the question of where do I get my necessities? Where do I train the rest of the time? A top university gives a player excellent facilities, equipment, world league coaching, a different competitive style found in the NCAA and eliminates the old been there, done that a player discovers training in the same environment. College is the opportunity to change so you WILL take the top 100 by storm versus the black hole rep it’s earned.

People throw around examples of raw talent discovered out in South America and so forth, but really, at the core of the matter, for every example of someone striking gold right away at 20, there are hundreds more young players who never did. Let’s hope guys like Isner encourage more hopefuls to enter college as a means of more than a good education – to hit up their skills. If nothing works out anyway, a tennis scholarship includes a decent discount on an education.

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3 Comments for John Isner goes from College to Pro Prime Time at 2010 US Open

Oleg Says:

“College is THE place to fine tune your skill and save a few bucks.” – College itself is expensive unless you get a scholarship.

Looking at the percentage of players who went through college and made it to the top 100, it is very very low.

Also let’s be realistic, with all due respect, John Isner’s success is largely a product of his genetics. Would this guy be top 100 if he had the same set of skills but was 5″10?

I’d argue against college tennis being the best path for 99% of kids who want to make it to the top 100 in the ATP.

Hypnos Says:


Perhaps it depends on the individual player’s development path.

I agree that if you have lightning-in-a-bottle tennis talent like Sampras, Federer or Agassi, you’ll immediately make prize money on the main tour and get a sponsorship. College would be a waste of time.

However, if you’re not sure whether you have Top 100 talent, then a full-ride at a college tennis program is a much better proposition than grinding at an expensive tennis academy or struggling on the Futures circuit. In addition to the coaching and organized competition, you get a college degree and a pleasant environment in which to spend four years of life. For a player like Somdev Devvarman, who spent four years at UVA and is currently ranked 103, it’s tough to stay he made a mistake by not going straight to the tour. Mikael Pernfors, Alex O’Brien and Sargis Sargisian were also in the same boat; on the other hand, if it turns out you underestimated your talent, you can always leave early for the tour, as McEnroe did.

Moreover, some players are late bloomers, and college provides a smoother path to develop their games than jumping onto tour. These tend to be the awkward movers like Todd Martin and Kevin Curren, and John Isner probably benefited in the same way.

Gael Says:

I saw an interview with Isner where he answered a question about whether he should have bypassed college. He said that when he was 21 he definitely wasn’t ready to play pro and didn’t consider it a viable career option until he reached #1 in the NCAA. Even then he thought he was just good enough to make some money and he could treat it as a actual job. He didn’t think he would get in the top 20 in his 1st year.

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