Is The Big 4 Era Coming To An End?

08-31-2014-0117Who would have thunk this one?

A US Open Men’s Final between Kei Nishikori and Marin Cilic? With both Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer going out on the same day?

Wow! Just Wow!

Furthermore, you have to wonder if this chain of events marks the decline of the Big 4 era in tennis, where the courts were ruled by Federer, Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray.

You have to go back to 2005 when Marat Safin took out Lleyton Hewett in the Australian Open to find a Grand Slam Final without a member of the Big 4.

And you need to go back to 2003 when Andy Roddick won his only Slam to find no Big 4 members playing on the last day in Flushing.

” I think it’s exciting for the game, you know, to have different faces from time to time,” Federer said after his loss. “At the same time, I think people still enjoy seeing the guys they have seen for a while or often in the big matches. But I think it’s definitely refreshing to some extent. It’s big for Croatia and big for Japan I guess on some level, especially on sporting terms and tennis terms. Everybody who gets to this stage of this kind of a competition deserves to be there because they have put in the work and they hoped for the break, and this is it for both of them. I hope they can play a good final.”

The folks at CBS are probably not happy, since there are no Americans or household names in the finals. And unless you are a huge tennis fan, you probably won’t have the same interest.

However, this may be good for the sport. As much as tennis thrived, especially in Europe, with the Big 4 headlining and everyone else getting union scale, there is always room for change.

The sport needs new stars to come up through the rankings. With Federer clearly on the backside of his career, Nadal’s injuries, and Murray’s decline, it leaves Djokovic as the only member of the group on at the top of his game and he is going through changes in his personal life with marriage and a baby on the way.

Simply put the field has caught up to the varsity here. And it’s good to see others at the top. It’s good for tennis in general and interest in the sport in other parts of the work.

With Michael Change in his corner Nishkori looks like the next up and coming star in the sport.

“This is definitely huge for Japan,” Djokovic said. “It’s a big country. Over a hundred million people. This can definitely be a great encouragement for tennis in that country. He’s been around for last couple of years. He’s been making a lot of success. But playing finals of a Grand Slam and now fighting for title is definitely something different. You know, he has gotten to another level, and I’m sure that people will praise him.”

And Cilic, who dropped bombs on Federer out there has brought himself up to the top of the game.

” I just think he was quite erratic before,” Federer said. “You know, especially from the baseline. I think in some ways his game has little margin, I find, because he takes the ball early. If he doesn’t feel well on the half volleys it’s tough for him. But I feel like he’s cleaned up his return game to some degree. I think he’s serving much more consistent throughout an entire match and entire tournament; whereas before he could have a good day, bad day, good set, bad set. I think his mental approach has been one of always a true professional, always super fair play on the court. Always well-behaved. Always a guy I kind of liked watching play.”

So there you have it, a reason to watch on Monday. Too bad the American men’s varsity isn’t up to par, but maybe someday it will return.

In the meantime, a page may have turned and now let’s enjoy the next chapter of tennis’s book.

US Open Late Night

Mens FinalsCilicDef.Nishikori in straight setsTick tock. Tick tock.

There’s always a night of the US Open where we get clipped. An evening where a match for one reason or another goes to the wee hours of the morning.

Last night was that night.

It started out innocent enough with no rain and everything going off on time. The first match with Victoria Azarenka winning over Aleksandra Krunic went three sets.

And the second match between No. 5 seed Milos Raonic and No. 10 seed Kei Nishikori seemed innocent enough.

In the end, though, we witnessed history. The 5 set epic won by Nishikori 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-7(6), 7-5, 6-4 lasted four hours and 19 minutes and ended at 2:26 am, tying it for the latest ending in US Open History with John Isner’s first case of Kohlschreiber back in 2012 and in 1993, in a second-round match between Mats Wilander and Mikael Pernfors.

Sure the match was exciting, but the time in the press room under Arthur Ashe Stadium was even more interesting.

You could hear a sigh of relief from the 20 or so reporters left as the match completed. No one really cared who won, rather everyone just wanted to go home.

There were reporters sleeping at their desks and some even snoring pretty loud and the coffee flowed but since the coffee pots were not marked, we had to guess which one was regular and decaf. (The one on the right was regular).

As the match continued, this version of US Open Survivor became a test of wills. Some left, but when you invested this much time into a match, you had to stay to the end.

And there were times we thought we were getting out of there early. But Raonic couldn’t do it and Nishikori kept battling.

And when the fifth set started with about 34 minutes to go for the record, you were rooting for it just to go 35.

We didn’t get it. We got a tie and that’s good enough.

And it’s back to the grind today. Hopefully Roger Federer and Caroline Wozniacki will have better times today in their matches.

We can only hope.

Tick Tock…

 

Roddick Still Goes Out On Top

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – After his loss to Juan Martin Del Potro, Andy Roddick was asked to say a few words.

For the first time in a long time, his mouth was at a loss.

“I mean, I don’t know that I had a plan,” Roddick said.  “You know, I was just going to try to win.  It was perfect.  This whole week has been perfect, you know.

“Rain‑delayed match, come back the next day.  It’s like typical US Open.  Played with me in the end, so I guess it was right.”

It wasn’t the storybook ending for Roddick, but it was his ending, as the No. 7 seed took him out of the Open with a 6-7, 7-6, 6-2, 6-4 win today in a match that was restarted after postponed last night.

But it didn’t matter for Roddick. He didn’t think he would have lasted to the final with some younger and better players in front of him. Rather, he wanted to go out on his terms. And today, he did.

Even in his final press conference.

“I was walking out of the locker room, and I said, Man, I think I have more expectation of this press conference than I did the match today,” he said.

“So, you know, like you said, I think it’s at the point now where I look back on rough moments fondly, you know, in these rooms.  I hope you all do, too.  There has certainly been some good ones; there have been some fun I ones.

“There has been some horrible ones both ways, but it wasn’t boring.”

Maybe that’s Roddick’s legacy. He wasn’t boring. Much like John McEnroe and Andre Agassi before him, he knows tennis is entertainment and besides being an athlete, he is there to entertain the crowd. He is always witty and funny and of course never a snoozer.

His matches with Federer were epic at times, even though he could never break through, and he played to the crowd in exhibitions, such as last March when he imitated Rafa Nadal on his serve much to the laughter of those in attendance.

He was no clown prince, though. Tennis was a serious business to him and he never gave up, which is why the Arthur Ashe crowd was chanting, “Let’s Go Andy!” throughout the match.

“I know the thing that is certain is I didn’t take any of it for granted,” he said.  “ I think I went about things the right way.  The umpires might disagree with me.  (Laughter.)

“I was consistent, and I don’t feel like I left a lot on the table on a daily basis.  When I look back, that’s probably what I’m proud of.”

What’s next for him, well that’s anyone’s guess, but Roddick will be humbled when the accolades come down, especially if he gets the call from Newport.

“That’s not for me to say,” he said.  “That’s not my choice.  Obviously it’s the ultimate honor of any tennis player, and that’s something I’d be extremely humbled by. But I’m certainly not going to be presumptuous about anything.  If it happens, I’ll be thrilled and amazed.  If it doesn’t, I’ll probably still be thrilled and amazed with what I was able to see.”

Because deep down inside, Roddick is still that 12 year-old kid who dreamed about playing Ivan Lendl or Stefan Edberg and now that they are his contemporaries, he is definitely satisfied.

“Yeah, it’s funny, because if you tell a 12‑ or 13‑year‑old kid that he’s going to win 30‑some odd titles and become one of 20 for this and 20 for that and be No. 1 and have a slam, you’d take that in a heartbeat,” he said.  “Going back, I would have taken that in a heartbeat.

“There were a lot of tough moments but unbelievable moments.  I mean, who gets to play in Wimbledon finals and who gets to play in an Open and who gets to be part of a winning team?  Most people don’t get to experience that.”

Roddick did and today he closed that chapter in his life on his terms.

 

 

 

 

Family Comes First For Kim

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Cross Sports Journalist off the list of potential careers for Kim Clijsters. When asked tonight, she gave a very quick, no.

“I definitely read the press in my first few years that I was on tour, and then I completely ignored the press,” Clijsters said.  Also because positive, negative, I didn’t want it to get to me.  It did when I was younger whether there was negative press, positive press.”

Well she will have plenty of time to decide after her second round loss to Brittan’s Laura Robson, 7-6 7-6, because that’s it for the three-time US Open Champion as she calls it a career.

“Now that I’m almost completely finished, you think about when I first stepped on tour, you know and met Steffi Graf and Monica Seles,” she said.  “First in Belgium when I was able to practice in a tennis center against Sabine Appelmans and Dominique Monami.

“It’s been an incredible journey, and a lot of dreams for me have come true because of tennis.  As a little girl, I got tennis racquets under the tree and outfits of Steffi Graf and Monica Seles and I would want to wear them to bed I was so excited.

“So for me to have been able to have been a part of women’s tennis, and on top of women’s tennis for so many years, now that I think back ‑‑ you know, you don’t think about it when you’re in it.  You’re kind of on automatic pilot.  You don’t think about those things anyway.

“Now that I think about it, it’s been a crazy rollercoaster at times, as well.  All of a sudden when you’re 15, you kind of get thrown in the spotlight, you go through puberty in the spotlight, you have your first boyfriend in the spotlight, you know, everything.

“It’s not just the tennis side of things that you think about now, it’s about life.  We’ve had a lot of things happen in these last 15 years that I’ve been on tour.  I’m able to look back at them, and I’m very happy with the progress that I’ve made.”

And what a career it has been. Three US Open Champions (2005, 2009, 2010), one Australian Open Championship (2011) and two French Open Finals (2001, 2003) and add to that two doubles majors at the French and Wimbledon in 2003. She, of course retied once and came back looking better than ever.

More importantly, though she goes out on her terms, as she retires for the second and final (we think) time.

She is obviously an all-time great up there with her contemporaries like the Williams sisters and Justine Henin, and and even can be compared with  her idols like Graf and Seles, who inspired her to become a tennis player.

“I hate to lose,” she said. “ My husband and I, we play ping‑pong in our garage and I don’t even want to give him a point.  I hate to lose, but I’m very aware or I understand and appreciate when you have an opponent who’s playing really well and plays good tennis.

“I always try to be better than my opponent.  I always try to find a solution to try and win a match, but I was also aware or understood that, you know, players can be better than you on the day.

“Losses have always motivated me more to go back.  I have a little gym in my basement downstairs.  Even when I was supposed to take a few days off, I would go into the gym and just run and do intervals and workouts to try and be better next time after a loss.”

But not this time. With her daughter Jada getting older and going to school, the travelling is just too much. Clijsters wants to be a good mother and there for her child while growing up. It makes it difficult to do that and go out on tour.

That’s may be her greatest legacy. The wins are one thing, but to balance being a mother, staying in shape after giving birth and coming back even stronger puts her in the echelon of Margaret Court.

“When I hear it, it is special, and I feel proud that I was able to win a slam as a mother, just because I know how much work it took after I had Jada to get back physically, tennis‑wise, and mentally to get back into the sport,” she mused.

“On the other hand, I never thought about that when I was playing.  You know, there were moments that it was hard.  Especially when I first started coming on tour it was hard to find the balance between figuring out ‑‑ when I was home, I was still working out, practicing hard, but I was 100% mom.

“If Jada was sick, I would call up and say, I need to be home now.  During a tournament, I can’t call the tournament director and say, Hey, can you move my match because I need to be home for Jada or something.

“Again, you know, you have a team that you work with.  Nicole, our nanny, has been maybe the most important member of our team because she’s given me so much comfort knowing that my daughter was with somebody I trust.

“When I want Brian to watch me play, Jada is with her.  Whether they’re in the hotel or sitting somewhere in the stadium, it’s so comforting knowing that she’s okay.  Knowing that, that’s when I’m able to play tennis and go to practice.  It got a little bit easier for me to leave home when she started going to school because I didn’t have to feel that guilty of leaving her behind when I had to go to practice.

“It’s been tough at times, too.  As a mother, you feel guilty if something happens that you can’t be there, good things or bad things.  Unfortunately, those kind of things have been there.

“On the other hand, I know with our lifestyle I’m maybe more with her than parents who work hard and who work from 9:00 to 5:00.

“But, yeah, I think as a parent you always feel like you miss out on things or feel a little bit guilty and you want to do better and be the perfect parent.”

That’s why she is leaving. She was smart enough to know the window was closing to play professional tennis and now her life becomes her family.

At the age of 29, she made the smartest decision of them all, to be a full time mother.

She will be missed at the Open.

 

 

 

 

Querrey The Forgotten Man

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – With all the attention going to Andy Roddick, John Isner, Mardy Fish and at this tournament, James Blake, Sam Querrey has become the forgotten man at the US Open.

And it was just a year ago when he was 17th in the world but then fell to 120th after a knee injury.

Now he’s back to 28th in the world and is the No. 27 seed at the Open.

“I was hurt last year and dropped from 17 to 120,” he said. “But it was very tough to get back to where I am now at 28.”

Today he made a step to continue his climb by beating Yen-Hsun, 6-7 6-4 6-4 7-5 to move onto the second round of the Open.

“Lu is a tough player,” he said.  “A little windy.  Hits the ball low and flat.  It’s tough for me because I’m a taller guy, I like it up a little higher.

“I didn’t play my best out there, but I just stuck with it so I’m happy to move on.”

Believe it or not, Querrey could be the face of American’s tennis in the near future. He is only 24 and by today’s standards approaching his prime. A former Top 20 player in the world, Querrey has a chance to make some noise.

But he has to keep on track and that includes staying healthy and keep on winning.

“I need to keep winning like I’ve been doing,” he said. “I feel like I’ve been playing at a higher level than 28.  I feel like if I keep doing what I’m doing, I can get back into the top 15 and hopefully top 10.

“I want to keep serving big, hitting big forehands and taking risks and going for it more like I’ve been doing.”

He said we are in a period where guys in late 20s have been taking center stage. He things eventually the cycle will swing back to the teenagers eventually but that’s not anytime soon.

So with some of the top players getting older, Querrey has a chance to make some noise, even at this Open where he feels like he’s playing his best tennis.

But the second round comes first with a match against Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo.

“I play Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo who I played once before on grass in Newport like four years ago,” he said. “So I don’t really remember a whole lot.  I feel like if I serve well and do what I did today, hit big forehands, I have a good chance to win that and hopefully move on to the next round.”

If he does, he may not be the forgotten man in American men’s tennis anymore.

 

 

Fish Learns On The Job

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Abe Vigoda’s character Sargent Phil Fish from Barney Miller is getting more respect than Mardy Fish these days.

As the top ranked American you would figure he should get a chance to be on Arthur Ashe Stadium one of these days, but alas the No. 8 seed still is getting showcased on the old center court Luis Armstrong stadium.

The Californian, though, doesn’t seem to mind.

“It’s definitely been like that in the past,” he said. “You know, there’s an American playing, put him on Grandstand or Louis court, and hopefully he’ll win.

“I hope it’s the beginning of that. That’s what you work towards, to have people come and appreciate what you do. You know, maybe I get the feeling, at least in the beginning of that match, that there were quite a few people there that maybe wouldn’t have been there in years past.”

Fish won his match today against South African Kevin Anderson with a straight sets victory, 6-4 7-6 7-6 to advance to the fourth round.

And if he wants to continue on his trek to greatness, he knows he need to continue disposing of opponents like the 12th Precinct captures bad guys. Straight set matches are key for the 39 year-old if he move deep into this tournament and beat one of the Big Four.

“It’s huge,” Fish said. “Mentally, physically, everything. Obviously it’s what we train for. I’ll be physically fine in two days. But, you know, I’m 29. I don’t wake up in the morning feeling like I’m 20. I don’t feel like Donald felt this morning. I’m sure he felt fine, you know. I won’t feel like that tomorrow morning.

“But we’ll do a lot of work on my body tonight, tomorrow. It’s big, you know, to get off. Last year was a prime example. I mean, I played two fivesetters in the first three rounds. I was just mentally and physically kind of drained to play someone like Novak in that next match.

“Maybe I could have come up against him, gamewise, a lot better than the score was. But I was so tired I wasn’t ready for it.”

It has been widely reported Fish has made the remarkable transformation from journeyman to star in a matter of a few years and maybe the reason he’s not getting the respect he deserves is that no one believes he could become a top player at this advanced age.

Yet, here’s Fish and like Phil Fish he is the grizzled veteran who is best at his job.

So what changed?

“Probably a lot,” Fish said. “I mean, probably first and foremost the mental side of it. You know, he seemed pretty jacked up yesterday. Obviously, you feed off the crowd. You’re not going to go away with a crowd like that, that’s for sure.

“But, you know, he lost serve at 54 and came right back, was able to hold to go to a breaker. And I think he said it after his match, that that’s probably a match he would have lost a year ago.

“Mentally he probably would have just been upset and said he had some chances and that’s it. You know, so that’s a huge part of it, as well. Maturing, growing, growing into your game, what makes you feel comfortable out on the court. There are demons out there, for sure. It’s not easy. It’s not going to be a piece of cake three out of five sets, that’s for sure.”

Fish is set to take on the winner of Jo-Wilfred Tsonga and Fernando Verdasco in the fourth round and much like the crew of Precinct 12, he will be ready for the job.

Sunshine Packs A Punch

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Tennis is not the only sport Caroline Wozniacki excels at. The No. 1 seed also plays other games to keep fit.

One is in the squared circle, where she does a boxing workout, something she started a while back.

“Well, boxing is great,” she said after beating American Vania King in straight sets, 6-2 6-4 to get to the fourth round. “I get my aggressions out. It was fun, but it was hard, as well. You get to work your core, your arms, your shoulders. It was a lot of cardio, as well. You learn how to distribute your power as well, because the first time I actually went in the ring and tried just for fun to fight with someone. I just went all in in the beginning, and after two rounds you’re dead.

“I realized you have to wait for your chances. I need to wait for the right moment. The same in tennis. You can’t just go all in all the time. You need to play the ball and then wait for a right chance to go in and then attack.”

Of course, don’t expect her to knock out Manny Pacquiao anytime soon.

“I prefer not to knock out anyone,” Woznacki added. “I’m a nice girl, so… Or I like to think so.”

And then there’s soccer, a game she played as a youth,

“Keep my feet up,” she injected when asked. “No, but I don’t know, I just think tennis is a great sport. It’s fantastic. I’ve had so many good experiences. But, yeah, to have my kids playing, I would just put them and give them to a coach or someone, yeah, who could teach them, because I have spent enough hours on court, I think.”

And then there’s golf. A sport Rafael Nadal plays to teach himself concentration and enjoys in his spare time. If Wozniacki picks it up, she would have a great teacher in her boyfriend Rory McIlvoy.

“Well, even though golf and tennis have some similarities, it’s also much different,” she said, “Golf is such a mental game. You’re playing against the course. You’re playing with yourself and trying to do a good score.

“You know, sometimes we can get into that spiral where you just think, Okay, I just can’t hit it right, you know, or I just need to put it in the hole but it just keeps missing. It’s so mental. If you stay positive and believe in yourself, it makes the game so much easier.

“So, you know, it’s the same, similar in tennis, but you have an opponent, as well.”

And that opponent will be the winner of the match between 15th seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova and Akgul Amanmuradova.

Sock Has A Bright Future

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – It was the past against the future. American tennis’s past darling in Andy Roddick against future star Jack Sock.

And when it was the master took on the apprentice today, Roddick showed experience wins out in a straight set win over his fellow Nebraskan, 6-3 6-3 6-4.

“I didn’t think I’d ever play another guy from Nebraska in my career,” Roddick said.  “You know, it was just cool.  I could draw so many parallels to what he was going through.  You know, but also I could draw on my experience a little bit.”

Sock’s inexperience showed when he missed a few break points in the first, which could have changed the complexion of the match. It is something that will come in time for the 18 year-old, because this was such a learning experience for him.

“After watching him I knew that he kind of plays a lot from the baseline, maybe a little bit behind the baseline, makes a lot of balls, is steady,” he said.  “I felt like I could go out there and try to dictate points and try to hit a lot of forehands, try to move the ball around as much as possible, and then attack when I could.

“I felt like I did a decent job of that.  I mean, like I said, it comes down to him getting back in the court and retrieve and be able to hit passing shots how he wants, like standing still or not on the run. I felt overall like I played a pretty good match.”

But it still wasn’t enough for Roddick who came in knowing his opponent would be a little nervous playing in the big bowl for the first time in his career. According to the 21st seeded player he has participated in 27 night matches at Ashes, so tonight was just old hat.

Yet, Roddick knows this won’t be the last he sees of Sock. In fact the 2003 champ feels Sock will be one of the “legit prospects” along with fellow American Ryan Harrison. And after the match Roddick invited him to his compound in Texas to practice with him, the same way Andre Agassi did back in the early 2000s with the current American star.

“I certainly feel the need to pay it forward,” Roddick said. “This game has been great to me.  It’s pretty much an impossibility for me to do it. But as far as leaving it better than when you came, when I came it was the best generation that has ever existed in a country.

“But I enjoy having the young guys at home.  I think I can help them.  It’s inspiring for me.  You can kind of feed off of their hunger a little bit.”

And that’s how American tennis will come back. It will be a cumulative effort. Although Roddick shown Same Querrey and Harrison the same hospitality, Sock, coming from the same background in Nebraska, may have some real success working with Roddick.

Plus he has the skills. With a 135 m.p.h serve, the talent is there, so all he now has to do is hone it in and learn about the intricacies of the game that only come with experience. When that happens, Sock will move up the ranks and become a star in this game, muck like Roddick did about 10 years ago.

So this is only the beginning and soon you may see the student teaching his teacher a thing or two.

McHale and Falcone Will Fare Better Than Oudin

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – The Cinderella stories are over for the two young American girls who made so much noise two days ago.

Both Christina McHale and Irina Falconi lost their matches today – McHale to Maria Kirilenko, 2-6 3-6 and Falconi to Sabine Lisicki 0-6 1-6 – but there first few matches give hope for the future of American tennis.

“I had two really good wins my first two matches,” said McHale after her match today.  “This one, it’s disappointing.  But, yeah, I think I just kind of have to take the positives from it and keep working hard and, yeah, keep going.”

Added Falconi: “I am just going to take this week and the next week as a huge stage on my career, hopefully what can translate into a follow-up fall season. Next week I go to Quebec City for a tour event and hopefully do some damage there as well. There is nothing but positives to take out of this week.”

Both girls showed their inexperience today. Neither of them was attacking the ball like they did on Wednesday and even admitted to playing tentative.

“I was too passive today,” McHale said.  “I think the other day I took my chances when I had them.  But [Kirilenko] was playing well, too, so it made it difficult today.”

And then there were the bright lights of Ashe, where she admitted she was a little nervous playing under the lights in front of the sold out crowd.

“I think it didn’t really help me, my nerves, tonight,” McHale added.  “I never really felt as comfortable as I wanted to feel on the court.”

Yet, it will be interesting to see how both girls handle their first success of the Open.  Melanie Oudin melted under the pressure after her run two years ago and hasn’t made any noise since.

But Oudin could be considered a special situation. Both McHale and Falconi didn’t get the celebrity treatment like Ouidin did and the press didn’t start look into their personal lives.

Plus Oudin seemed to enjoy the celebrity spotlight, whereas both of these girls seems to care more about winning than stardom.

So it will be interesting to see how both do in the fall and then at the Australian Open come 2012. But it also important to remember they are both very young with McHale only 19 while Falconi can get a drink in bar…well barely. And it will take time for both players, so don’t get excited if one or both makes a quarterfinals and expect to see the second coming on Chris Everett.

Rather this is more like the baseball minor leagues where the two girls are honing their skills. Some success here will help them, but until they learn to be winning at a consistent level in high profile tournaments, they will remain prospects.

But all prospects have upside and this past week we may have just seen the future.

Isner Bulldogs It To The Third

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY- Although John Isner is keeping a watchful eye on the other matchups today after his second round win over fellow American Robbie Ginepri, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4, his biggest concern is tomorrow’s big game.

It’s when his beloved Georgia Bulldogs take on Boise State.

“I’m just getting mentally prepared for that,” he said.  “I don’t watch too much tennis.”

He doesn’t need to keep watching after his strong performance on Armstrong today. The Georgia native has been on top of his game this year. This win will be his seventh in a row and that follows one that was what he thinks is an “eight or nine match” winning streak.

He took the Hall of Fame Tournament in Newport back in July and won in Winston Salem, just a few weeks ago to start his winning streak.

And what’s the secret of his recent success?

Why confidence, of course.

“It’s as high as it’s ever been,” he said. “You know, I don’t like to think too much about it, but, you know, I have won seven matches in a row now, and earlier this summer I won, I think, eight or nine matches in a row:  won Newport, made the finals of Atlanta.

“I’m just winning it a lot of matches and I’m very, very confident and I feel good.  I feel like I’m, you know, moving very well, you know, especially for myself.  I’m getting to balls and able to get a lot more balls back in play because I’m very comfortable out there.”

This is a different from the Isner we all have seen earlier this year, where he lost in French Open in the first round and Wimbledon in the second. He also had a disappointing loss in Chile during the Davis Cup.

“That was probably one of the biggest down points of my year so far, going down there and just not playing well and not really able to contribute to the team,” he said. “You know, I lost to a guy ranked pretty low in Davis Cup, and I just ‑‑ it all started once I got back to the States and started playing tournaments stateside.  Very comfortable over here.  It’s just, you know, once I won a few matches in a row ‑‑ at Newport I started ‑‑ you know, I knew my game was going in the right direction, because the first five months of the year frankly it was a disappointment.”

But the 26 year-old is now back and ready to continue on at the Open. Fortunately he has a the fifth set tie break here and there will be no repeat of his match last year at Wimbledon when he won a fifth set over Nicholas Mahut, 70-68, in a match that lasted 11 hours and five minutes.

“Every slam is different,” he said.  “To me, to be honest, I like the tiebreaker, because if it goes to a fifth set and it happens to go down to a tiebreaker I like my chances, especially with my serve.  You know, I beat Andy a couple years ago in a fifth set tiebreaker.  You know, I do like the system now.

“But, you know, I don’t think anything should change as far as the other tournaments go.  It’s just how the US Open does it.”

But that didn’t happen today – maybe later in the tournament. Right now, though, it doesn’t seem like he cares because his Bulldogs will take conter statge for him tomorrow.

And who is going to win?

“I’m partial to Georgia,” Isner predicted. “I think they’re virtually playing ‑‑ you know, they’re in their backyard playing in the Georgia Dome.  They’ll have the crowd support and it’s gonna be ‑‑ it’s a huge game to start the season, for sure.”

Spoken like a true Georgia alumni.