Re: John Isner
"He will have a great opportunity," said Ricardo Acuna, a U.S. national coach who has coached Isner the past 2½ weeks. "He definitely put himself in position to get invitations to other tournaments. At the same time, we'll see how he does in some other tournaments. His ranking may still not be good enough to get into those tournaments."
Isner broke out with a 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(4) victory over Henman in the opening round. He had to come from behind again against Becker on Wednesday, battling through a tough second set en route to a 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (6) victory.
After Isner defeated Becker, Georgia tennis coach Manuel Diaz saw him flash a big smile. It brought back memories of Isner's journey in reaching this stage at a time when some have questioned whether American tennis is at a lull.
"[Isner] gives college tennis the due respect," Acuna said. "He shows you can still play four years of college and be able to play on the tour. He demonstrated that is possible to do."
But the real question, Acuna said, is how much Isner's game will develop.
Isner was a basketball player until his sophomore year of high school in North Carolina, when he quit because he didn't feel comfortable playing inside.
"I was a perimeter player," Isner said. "I was like Dirk [Nowitzki]. I was tall and could shoot [3-pointers]. I wasn't big enough to bang down low. Or at least wide enough, that is."
In tennis, though, Isner could take advantage of his long frame, which helped his serve's trajectory and partly led to his dominance in college. Physical advantages are rarer at the pro level, but Isner thinks he's gaining confidence and playing patiently while also realizing mental errors quickly can spell defeat.
"Fortunately, I was serving exceptionally well," Isner said yesterday. "That's what carried me today. I need to learn how to start winning in quicker fashion. But I'll take it. A win is a win."
His college coach agreed.
"He was more of a baseliner in college, and he pretty much served and volleyed all the time," Diaz said. "These [professional] guys are stronger in returning than the college players. In order for him to continue to improve, he has to continue to play aggressively and continue to attack the net."
That was evident as both Henman and Becker tried to make Isner run around the court, hoping his long legs would tire him out. But Isner gave them few opportunities to do that, often holding serve.
Isner smoked Becker with 30 aces and only had two double-faults. Against Henman, Isner won all five of his service points in the tiebreaking set. One of his serves in that match clocked 141 mph — the second-fastest serve at Legg Mason so far behind only Andy Roddick's 143 mph serve against Tomas Zib on Tuesday.
"I thought I beat him," Isner said with a laugh. "My serve comes down at a steep angle. I extend the racket and get it up in the air. ... I can create good angles on my serve, and I feel I can hit any spot on the court. I feel I can hold my serve against just about anybody."
Isner has taken advantage of the opportunity and is hoping his play has impressed officials enough to warrant an invitation to the U.S Open later this month.
"It's something that no matter what the situation in this tournament, I've been really calm out there," Isner said. "I don't feel any pressure. I have nothing to lose in this tournament. I'm going out there to grip it and rip it."