John Isner is a 33-year-old American tennis player, born and raised in Greensboro, who is currently ranked eighth in the world by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP). Isner made headlines recently and captivated the hearts of North Carolinians as he made a surprise run to the Wimbledon Semifinals.
Standing at a gawking six feet and ten inches, Isner is one of the tallest players in ATP history and is currently the third tallest active player. This becomes even more absurd when you consider the fact that the average height of all of the other players currently ranked in the top ten of the ATP Rankings is a little bit less than six feet and four inches.
Astonishingly, in a sport that is extremely dependent on mobility, Isner has been able to establish himself as one of the most elite tennis players in the world despite his stature. To put Isner’s accomplishments in perspective, neither of the two players that are taller than him (only by a single inch) are currently even rated in the top 100 players in the world.
Much like other players his size, Isner possesses much greater strength than the vast majority of his opponents. Isner capitalizes on his strength by having one of tennis’ deadliest serves. He is also able to follow up his serve with a powerful forehand, which gives him a huge advantage in the sport. Isner also makes up for what he lacks in speed with tremendous endurance and conditioning. This is evidenced by the fact that Isner has been a part of both the longest and fourth longest matches in ATP history.
In 2010, Isner was able to defeat French player Nicolas Mahut in 11 hours and five minutes, the longest match ever. Unfortunately, Inser’s run at Wimbledon was put to an end during the fourth longest match ever, as he was defeated by South Africa’s Kevin Anderson in six hours and 36 minutes.
Going into 2018, Isner had placed a strong focus on improving his return game in order to be less reliant on the dominance of his serve and be better able to break the serves of his opponents. Breaking an opponent’s serve is something that Isner has always naturally struggled with due to his size.
However, during Wimbledon, the improvement was very noticeable. This is evidenced by the fact that Isner was able to win three of his first four matches of the tournament in straight sets which required him to be able to break his opponent’s serve regularly. This improvement became very critical in his quarterfinals match vs. 13th ranked player in the world, Milos Raonic.
In a tightly contested match, Isner confidently took three of the six opportunities he had to break Raonic’s serve. Isner also did not allow for Raonic to break him at any point in the match and would go onto win the match three sets to one.
Unfortunately, Isner’s magical run came to an end at the hands of Kevin Anderson, who is currently the fifth highest ranked player in the world. Anderson plays a very similar game to that of Isner’s, as he himself stands at a height of six feet and eight inches. The match featured a near-record 102 aces as both players dominated one another with tremendous displays of power. The scorecard will tell the tale of this historic march better than any amount of exposition will. Anderson ultimately defeated Isner 7-6, 6-7, 6-7, 6-4 and 26-24.
Although he is 33, Isner appears to be in the best shape of his life and is also playing the best tennis of his career, with his current ranking of eighth at Wimbledon. The Wimbledon Semifinals is also the farthest he has ever advanced in a grand slam, as well. What the future holds for the Jolly Greensboro Giant is unknown, but perhaps one day, he will be able to stand higher than he ever has in his life as a Grand Slam Champion.