John Isner’s is back into the U.S. Open quarterfinals for the first time in seven years after he outlasted 25th seeded Canadian Milos Raonic 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 in three hours and eight minutes on Sunday.
“Everyone was expecting maybe five tiebreaks. If that’s the case, so be it. But I didn’t go out there expecting that,” said Isner. “I knew that I could try to impose myself as best as I possibly could, try to do it without winning with a seven on the ledger.”
In their previous five matchups, Isner and Raonic had played nine tiebreaks, so it was reasonable to anticipate that on Sunday. But that would not be the case, and was the type of win indicative of Isner’s breakout 2018 season.
“There so matches I’ve played where I only just rely on my serve. But I think more times than not this year I’ve shown some other ability,” said Isner. “That comes from just being relaxed on the court. It’s not a product of more reps or more practice. The mental part of the game, being able to free up on the tennis court is much easier said than done. I’ve been able to, for the most part this year, do a pretty good job of that.”
That development in his game was evident at the beginning of the deciding fifth set. After Milos Raonic took the fourth to force the match to go the distance, Isner calmly held serve in the opening game and then pounced all over Raonic’s serve in the next game. He got the decisive break he needed for 2-0, and didn’t take his foot of the gas pedal from that point forward to see things out.
“The most important thing is I just stayed positive,” Isner told Mardy Fish of ESPN on court after that match. “The crowd just kept me in this. This atmosphere is like a jungle. It was amazing.”
Isner will take on either third-seed Juan Martin del Potro or 20th seed Borna Coric for a spot in the semifinals.
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for Long Island Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.