FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – The last time we saw John Isner at a major, it took him three days to get the win.
Needless to say, this time it was a little easier.
“Yeah, just a little bit,” laughed Isner after he disposed of Federico Gil, 6-4 6-3 6-4. “I don’t know the exact time of my match tonight, but obviously it was a lot less time on the court.
“So for my second‑round match I should be a little bit fresher than I was at Wimbledon.”
Actually John, you were on the court for 1hour, 57 minutes, certainly much less than the 11+ you played in England.
Yet, even if this match was relatively uneventful, his weeks leading up to the US Open were filled with uncertainty. You see, Isner injured his ankle in Cincinnati, which was originally diagnosed as torn ligaments, but now seems to be just a bad sprain. Up to a week ago, he was not cleared by the his doctors, but now he has a clean bill of health.
“In my mind,” he said, “I didn’t think I was going to play, just because I didn’t think my ankle was ready. But I got cleared to go. Once I got that news it was all systems go, doing everything I possibly can to get ready for, you know, today’s match.”
Right now, Isner says the ankle is about 90 percent, but his legs are not in game shape after missing the last few weeks due to the injury. He felt it on the court today and feels he has to have a few matches before he gets back into full tournament shape.
“The issue when you hurt your ankle, everything else shuts down,” he said. So that’s just what happens. So I’ve just got to rebuild the strength in my legs. That was the issue tonight. Because when you have that hurt ankle you’re not able to put any weight on it for a long time. Everything on the right side of my body was shut down. I have to get to the point where my left and right side are moving the same.”
The injury may have been a blessing in disguise for the 18th seed as he was able to stay away from the limelight the last few weeks. He needed to take time off after Wimbledon to unwind and even turned his phone off for a few days.
“I went into the Atlanta tournament and felt pretty good out there,” he said. “But then when I went to play D.C. it all kind of hit me. Either it was that match, kind of everything I did after the match, you know, a lot of interviews and whatnot, it kind of all just hit me. I kind of ran out of gas in D.C.
“From there, I didn’t play Toronto. I knew I needed to take some time off like completely. That’s what I did. I went home to North Carolina, turned my phone off for four days, got spoiled by my mom. Then I went into Cincinnati feeling great. Been hitting the ball great, just playing my best tennis. Unfortunately I hurt my ankle.”
But now he’s back and enjoying his new found fame from the Eternal Match. Ironically, though, the first person he saw when he walked into the player’s lounge at Arthur Ashe was his opponent Nicholas Mahut .
“It was the first time I’ve seen him in person since the match,” Isner recalled. What was it? Monday morning, I didn’t fly into New York until Sunday night, so Monday midday I came to the courts for the first time.
“As soon as I stepped into the locker room, honestly he was the first person I saw. We did the handshake, high five thing. Sat and talked for about five minutes. And ever since then, I keep running into him in the locker room and we talk. I talk to his coaches. He talks to my coach.
“Obviously, we’re definitely good friends now.”