Every tennis player has had to go through the grueling process of rising through the ranks year after year, and John Isner is no different. He’s worked for years on his game, had his share of ups and downs, but the American tennis player is proving his mettle this season at the 2015 Madrid Open.
Like every tennis player, American John Isnerhas lost his fair share of matches, 161 throughout his career to be precise, but few have resonated with him more than a 15-13 fifth-set defeat to World No. 111 James Wardon Davis Cup duty in early March.
But it proved to be the catalyst the 30 year old needed to jump start his season and arrive at the Mutua Madrid Open with a quiet confidence on the European clay.
“I hit rock bottom after that Davis Cup,” Isner told ATPWorldTour.com. “[It was] one of the lowest points of my career and definitely of my year. I’m going to lose matches, but when you lose matches like that in Davis Cup, and you’re playing for your country, I just didn’t do it.
“At that point there was nowhere to go but up. I had a very long car ride from LAX to Indian Wells with Justin [Gimelstob – coach], when I landed from London. We talked about a few things and really turned around.”
The Davis Cup defeat compounded what had been a distinctly average start to the season for Isner, who started working with Gimelstob at the turn of the year. The right-hander suffered a third-round loss to the resurgent Gilles Muller at the Australian Open, and won just one match in his following two tournaments in Memphis and Delray Beach.
But things picked up swiftly for Isner when he returned home. He put up a strong challenge against World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the BNP Paribas Openfourth round and two weeks later knocked out Grigor Dimitrov, Milos Raonicand Kei Nishikori to reach the semi-finals in Miami, where he again succumbed to Djokovic.
“You’re never going to get instant results with a new coach, but I never doubted that Justin was my guy,” said Isner. “I have a great team around me. It’s not just Justin; he’s not here right now. My coach in Tampa, Rene Muller, I work with him as much as I do with Justin and together we’re a very good team. I never doubted and I knew that if I just kept working hard, things would turn around and that’s what happened.”
A false start on the clay in Houston was quickly forgotten at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, where Isner pushed Rafael Nadal in a tight three-set contest. On Monday, he began his Mutua Madrid Open campaign with victory overAdrian Mannarino.
In the Spanish capital, he is one of five Americans in the main draw, marking the first time so many Americans have competed at an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament on clay since Rome 2004. Joining Isner are recent Houston champion, Jack Sock, Steve Johnson, Sam Querrey and Donald Young.
“It takes a few matches to really get acclimated to the surface,” said Isner. “Once I get a few matches under my belt, on any surface but especially clay, I feel better and I feel more comfortable moving. This tournament and these courts are very good for me. It’s quick, it helps my serve out so much, so it’s really good conditions for me, I think.
“I think last year I was the only American here and now we have five. Three of the guys are under 25 years old, Donald, Steve and Jack, and I’m the older guy – just turned 30! – and myself and Sam. We’re doing pretty well.”