Big year ahead for Big John Isner?
When asked in Paris last fall about French cuisine, John Isner joked that he was eating a cheeseburger every day because “they cook a good one here.”
In truth, Isner has been working hard on improving his diet, fitness and all-around game. It’s paying off. Turning 33 later this month, Isner is finally reaching the higher level he’s targeted for years.
In Miami, he held his serve 53 straight times to win his first Masters 1000 title. In the final, we expected bombs from him like the searing forehand he hit verses Juan Martin del Potro in the semis. But Isner beat Sasha Zverev because of his patience and resilience. He looped forehands to stay in rallies and sliced backhands to Zverev’s forehand side, putting Sasha uncomfortably in two minds, whether to pull the trigger or not.
Zverev tried to tire out the bigger, older Isner, making him move, jamming him with body serves, and engaging him in long rallies. It was seemingly working. Isner was doubled over, catching his breath.
But Isner dug deep. He found another gear, possibly something he didn’t have before.
After the match, Isner was tearful with joy. He said he was “playing poorly” all year, winning only one ATP match. But he kept pushing and following his plan.
Winning his first ever Masters 1000 title could propel Isner to bigger things. He beat Rafa Nadal at the Laver Cup in Prague, then seemed destined to win the Paris Rolex Masters before a stunning semi-final loss to Filip Krajinovic.
Never mind the blip earlier this year. Isner is well positioned to take advantage of injuries or absences of Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Murray, Wawrinka and others. He’s a serious contender now for Wimbledon, the US hardcourt events and the US Open. Much will depend on the quality of those cheeseburgers.