I want to take this opportunity to write about the newest American tennis hero … Big John Isner! The University of Georgia product has put himself on a very short list of players who enter a Slam and have both the game and momentum to win one!
I first saw John at the Easter Bowl, a junior event played annually in Palm Springs, Calif. His size was the first thing that stood out over the other kids, but I was really impressed with his kick-serve. He had the weapon every player needs … a one-swing-to-win-one-point at any time kind of weapon. When I see junior players, I see the skills and I see the potential, but only the player knows the love that is inside to grind that talent out towards the Pro Tour. Many players with Pro Tour-caliber talent quit way before their time. The Pro Tour is about losing, and the price you are willing to pay to improve enough to start winning … that is why I admire John Isner. His road to tennis stardom was different, but it had to be. Even though he had a gift, John needed the time to understand and learn how to use his gift.
After an outstanding career at the University of Georgia, his first full summer on the ATP Tour after graduation was very impressive. Isner’s match against Roger Federer at Arthur Ashe Stadium may have been a loss, but the special elements I look for in elite players was evident in that particular match—poise, confidence, determination and firepower! Against Federer, the most dominant player in the universe at the time, John Isner was throwing bolts of lightning!
Another massive moment was his three-day match at Wimbledon in 2010 against Nicolas Mahut. It is a special match in tennis history, and for me, I was there covering the match for ESPN from the first to last minute of every shot … all three days. John showed the key to every champion … TOUGHNESS, and over three days of tennis torture, Isner was nothing but titanium tough.
Now in 2012, we have the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. Look for Isner to make serious runs at those Grand Slam titles. The French Open is a real possibility. He just best Federer on red clay in the 2012 Davis Cup and Isner is the only man to take Rafael Nadal to five sets at the French Open.
On a personal note, I want you all to get behind John. He is truly a GREAT kid! I have been around him in many situations before he was big time, and since making it big time, he is still the very simple and honest John Isner he always was. I have so much respect for him … like the respect I have for Federer and his accomplishments. They are kids at heart. They really love what they do, and do it in a way that seems to me where they cannot believe they are living this dream of being a tennis mega star. John has this way about him like a kid that has a player’s Guest Pass into the locker room and Player’s Lounge and he is hanging out with Federer, Nadal and world number one-ranked Novak Djokovic … it’s too amazing to be true.
So, let us really follow and get behind this American hero as he carries our American hopes towards Grand Slam titles. His window is now, his game is HUGE, and the rest of the draw knows just how dangerous that Big John Isner kid is!