John Isner US Open Day 3 Interview | Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Q. Talk about the match.
JOHN ISNER: I knew the match today was going to be tough. You know, a lot of people are projecting me to go far here, but I wasn't looking past this match. As you guys could see, I had my hands full. He doesn't mind playing me. He's played me well in the past and he did it again today. Got to a certain point there where it was anyone's match. I just got pretty fortunate at the end. I'm happy to move on. Very happy. I think I can play better. That's obviously the objective here. But, you know, as for right now I'm just happy to get through.
Q. Janko Tipsarevic came through after being down two sets. He said he hates the idea of being called a top‑10 player because you have this expectation that you're going to walk in and crush everybody. He felt that his energy level was down. Do you have to worry at all in these early rounds that you're overconfident going into matches?
JOHN ISNER: Well, for me, I didn't feel like I was overconfident. But like he said, you know, I am in the top 10 now, so is he, and people just automatically assume that you're going to move through. I mean, I'm sure he's happy to win, but everyone is so good. I'm not the type of guy, I don't really blow anyone off the court when I play. A lot of times I win matches on very close margins. Sometimes it can go against me. But, you know, I try not to feel that pressure of being a top‑10 player. As cliché as it is, you have to take it one at a time. But I'm in a good place at this tournament right now. I've won a lot of matches since Wimbledon. You know, I know in the nitty‑gritty times of a match I always have that confidence and all those wins in my back pocket.
Q. Do you find it tougher winning Winston‑Salem, coming here, you have no preparation time, and the first match sneaks up on you?
JOHN ISNER: I don't. I find it easier. I'd rather play a tournament in my hometown all the way up until Saturday rather do than be here practicing, to be honest. I don't like to spend that much time here on‑site besides match days. That's what I didn't do this year. I didn't do it last year as well. I won that tournament last year also. A hard court is a hard court. The court or the conditions didn't surprise me at all today. I just had a very tough match.
Q. There's no mental drain or anything on you?
JOHN ISNER: No. For me the mental drain is being here for a few days, you know, practicing and sort of getting ready. I'd rather be playing. That's what I was doing. I came off of a big tournament for me and I got her pretty late, which is what I wanted to do.
Q. Petra won in New Haven. She said in a way it almost didn't feel like a Grand Slam because she didn't have a lot time to come in and do a lot of prep stuff. Was it a bit like that for you?
JOHN ISNER: I guess a little bit. But in the past when I have played my best at a Grand Slam, it's from playing well the week before. When I won I first‑ever tournament in Auckland, I arrived in Melbourne very late and I played very well there. I arrived late here last year and played well; same thing has happened this year. So for me, you know, I felt like I'm prepared. I just didn't do my preparation here, which is how I like it.
Q. You said you don't like spending a lot of time on the grounds. Are you watching college football preview shows all week?
JOHN ISNER: Yeah, I've been doing that. Well, it's football season, not just college. NFL is upon us. That's my favorite time of the year. I've been trying to digest all of that, whether it be on college, especially the Georgia Bulldogs, the Carolina Panthers. Those are my two teams. That's who I follow religiously. When the tour goes over to Asia and Europe, especially in Asia, I don't sleep too well because I can't sleep because my mind's running when Georgia is playing and Carolina is playing.
Q. You're going to lobby to not play next Wednesday night so you can see the Giants game?
JOHN ISNER: Well, I hope to still be here a week from today. But, you know, obviously tennis does come first. If I have to play a match on Wednesday night, I'll catch some highlights on ESPN.
Q. As you climb in the rankings, meet a lot of expectations, is it difficult at all to sort of temper your expectations in an event like this to say, Don't think about making the second week, just play this match? Is that something you have to learn to deal with?
JOHN ISNER: Yeah, I think it is. It is something I have learned. I've been on the tour five years, so I feel like I have learned that over the years. For me, my goal every Grand Slam, my first goal, is to get to the second week. From there, I'll just take it from there. I know for me the opening matches are always very tough. But that being said, I never overlook any opponent. I didn't even know who I was playing in my second round until about an hour ago. I don't really look at the draw. I just focus on who I have at hand and try to go about it that way. You know, I try not to look too far ahead. I have done that in the past and it hasn't worked for me.
Q. If you could go back in your imagination and play an imaginary match with some great legend, a great player of the past, who would you choose?
JOHN ISNER: I might choose Agassi probably because we play pretty differently. He arguably has the greatest return of all time and I serve pretty well, so I think a match like that would be fun. I never got the chance to play him. We did intersect a little bit at the beginning of my career, the end of his, but I've never played with him or practiced with him either. If it would be anyone, it would be Agassi.
Q. Can you imagine responding to his lightning‑quick attack, return of serve?
JOHN ISNER: It would be tough, but I'd try not to let him touch it.
Q. Considering your ranking, your form coming in, I'm sure you can understand why people think you could be primed for a deep run here. The way you look at things, round by round, is that you managing expectations to some extent, or is that more making sure you don't lose the details?
JOHN ISNER: It's both. I have to manage round by round. There's been some instances this year ‑‑ I know in Indian Wells this year my draw sort of opened up. It was hard not to realize, you know, I would have played Mardy Fish. He didn't play so well in the round before. Andy Murray lost and I was in that section, so a lot of people had me going to the semis even after my first match. I try not to focus on it too much. I feel like I have done a better job, especially this year when situations have come up like that where it seems like I may have a good draw, I may have an opening. I don't look ahead. I just focus on who my next match is.
Q. What are your thoughts on the continuing saga of Brian Baker?
JOHN ISNER: I'm just thrilled for the guy. I've known him for a long, long time. We're actually exactly the same age, I think just three days apart. I came up playing juniors with him. He's from Tennessee; I'm from North Carolina. Neighboring states. As juniors he always cleaned my clock. What has happened to him has been very, very unfortunate. But his story is absolutely amazing. We just wish him the best and stay healthy, because if he can, he can stay around for a long time.
Q. The NCAA was talking possibly about shortening college matches, having a tiebreak in the final set, which might have helped you. What are your thoughts that they're backing off from that?
JOHN ISNER: I think it's good. I know there was a bit of uproar from coaches, current players, former players, about the proposed new system. I sort of understand where the NCAA comes from. They want to shorten the matches. Sometimes college matches can draw on. But I think ultimately that system would take away from player development. So I'm glad the NCAA kept it how it is. I know a lot of coaches and players are happy, too, and I think it was the right decision.
Q. Can you think of any tennis match, Georgia, Georgia Tech, any match that approached your Mahut match?
JOHN ISNER: No. But at Georgia we only have four indoor courts. When we would play an indoor match or be forced indoors, those would take a long time. When the singles would start, you know, only one through four could play; five and six have to wait until a court opens up. That happened actually at the NCAA finals this year between Southern Cal and Virginia. I wasn't there, but I heard that match took forever because they had to play it indoors.
Q. What goes through your mind when you watch Sloane Stephens play?
JOHN ISNER: Nothing really. She's a very nice girl. She's actually a good friend of mine. I'm always going to pull for her. It seems like she's playing well. I know she had a good win yesterday. So nothing really goes through my mind. I just pull for her whenever I get a chance.
Q. What makes her a special personality?
JOHN ISNER: I don't know. She's sort of got a magnetic personality. I feel like people are drawn to her, you know, whether it's on the court or off the court. She's very nice off the court. She's just a good girl in general. I'm glad to see that she's playing well.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about the choice you took regarding college and then going to the pros? What has it given you that you went to college?
JOHN ISNER: Without college I wouldn't be here today. I can say that with 100% certainty. I wasn't nearly good enough to go pro after high school. I didn't even have pro aspirations. I got so much better at Georgia. Once I did get so much better, I realized that I could maybe play professional tennis. Like I said, without Georgia I wouldn't be here right now, so for me it was the right decision. I had to go there. But, you know, everybody's different.
Q. Do you think it would be more common to go that way in the future?
JOHN ISNER: Yeah, I feel like a lot of top Americans now are going the college route. Whether they go for four years, I don't know. They're at least going for one year. Like you said, the game is more physical. The average age of the top 100 is 26. It's not how it used to be in the '80s and '90s where you would have 19‑year‑olds, 20‑year‑olds inside the top 10 in the world. It doesn't happen like that now. In my opinion, it takes longer for guys to develop. Look at Mardy Fish. He's playing his best tennis and he's 30. He played his best tennis last year at 29. A guy like Tipsarevic is playing his best tennis at 27, I think same age as me. The game has gotten more physical and more mature, for sure.
Q. I'm sure television executives are breathing a sigh of relief with your victory. Has it gotten to a point where an American better start winning a Grand Slam or interest in the sport will decline?
JOHN ISNER: Well, I don't think the interest in the sport is going to decline. I know tennis on an international basis is huge. Within the States ‑ I don't think if an American wins a tournament, I still don't think it's going to be more popular than hockey, football, basketball, or baseball. That's how America is. I prefer to watch those sports, also.
Q. James Blake was talking about golf skyrocketing. And it's not just Tiger Woods.
JOHN ISNER: It started with Woods. He's made so many guys a lot of money. From that, there's been a lot of good characters and personalities that have won big tournaments. Somebody that comes to mind is Bubba Watson. Everyone was drawn to him when he won the Masters. With golf, as you can see, up until Rory won this last major, it was 15 or 16 different major winners in a row. With tennis, that's just not the case right now. The sports are pretty different in that regard.
Q. With Davis Cup coming up, there are reports that Rafa is still in pain. It's really tough to think about athletes and injuries. It obviously changes the whole chemistry of the match. Can you talk about your thoughts about his injury and how it impacts the upcoming matchup.
JOHN ISNER: Well, I'm not going to sit here and say that I don't want him to play. Everyone wants him to be healthy. Honestly, if it was up to me, I would want him to play. I would want Spain to send out their absolute best team. Obviously Rafa on clay, he would make that team pretty tough. But if he doesn't get to play, the match is still going to be so tough. It's Spain. They're the best tennis country in the world. I would imagine they would throw Ferrer and Almagro at us, if I had to guess, two guys that know what they're doing on clay. I don't feel like it gets that much easier, even if Rafa doesn't play. If he does happen to play this tie, I know our team is going to go in there believing we can win. We've had two already tough wins on the road so far. We really do believe that we can beat Spain and that we can win the Davis Cup. In order to do that, we have to play well.
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