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I am not expecting great results, but that will be a sight to be seen


Serving up a local treat By Jim Young
Staff Writer
Friday, Dec. 7, 2007 3:00 am

Credit: News & Record file
John Isner is coming back to Greensboro.
The fan was excited to meet the star, so he couldn't resist gushing a bit. He rattled off detailed information from John Isner's tennis resume that surprised even Isner.

"I swear, I felt like he knew more about me than I knew about him," Isner said by phone this week.

Add Sir Elton John to the growing number of fans who have been keeping an eye on Isner since the Greensboro native burst onto the pro tennis scene this year.

In the three months between Isner's four-set loss to top-ranked Roger Federer in the third round of the U.S. Open and tonight's exhibition match against Mardy Fish at the Greensboro Coliseum, the Page High School alumnus has been trying to adjust to his new status as one of America's rising tennis stars, while focusing on living up to expectations.

That's meant brushes with celebrity, expanded opportunities for self-marketing and increased attention from media and opponents. It's been a whirlwind that has sometimes left him exhausted and even yearning to get back to the simple task of practice.

No complaints, though.

Big time

There's nothing on the line in tonight's match, and Fish and Isner are good friends who train together in Tampa, Fla. — Isner's new home base. But Isner is quick to assure fans that this won't be glorified practice.

"We're going to go out there to win," he said.

Isner knows how to strike the exhibition balance between putting on a good show and playing a good match because this is his third such event since the U.S. Open. In early October, he played Andy Roddick in an exhibition in Baltimore. He then played in a World TeamTennis charity exhibition in Philadelphia, where Sir Elton was one of his teammates.

"It was pretty cool," Isner said. "He's a living legend."

That's pretty heady stuff for a player ranked No. 106 in the world and just seven months removed from playing for the University of Georgia.

But that's what happens when you play great tennis before and during the U.S. Open, when you're a personable player with one of the best serves in the world and you stand 6 foot 9.

All the fan interest in Isner has naturally led to interest from sponsors. Isner now has a shoe and apparel deal with Nike and a racquet deal with Prince. Isner said his agent, Sam Duvall of SFX, also is trying to hammer out a deal with a watch company.

Big demands

The guy across the net in Calabasas, Calif., or Tulsa, Okla., or Champaign, Ill., didn't particularly care what watch Isner was wearing or how much his endorsement deals were worth. Players on the Challenger circuit are a hungry lot — hungry to make it to the big time and big money of the Association of Tennis Professionals tour.

Because of his triple-digit world ranking, this is where Isner has had to toil these past few months, even though his Q rating no longer matches his humble surroundings.

"I was used to playing in front of big stadium crowds," he said. "Then you go and play these tournaments, where, if you're lucky, you'll get 500 to 600 people out to watch. It was definitely a change of scenery."

Because Isner often played the featured match, he usually had to sit around all day before taking court about 10:30 p.m. for matches that regularly ended after midnight.

Steady climb

The demands on his time and the demands of the game finally caught up with him in Nashville, Tenn., in early November. Playing in his fourth tournament in four weeks, Isner lost in the first round to Fritz Wolmarans, the No. 327-ranked player in the world.

"I guess you could say I was a little burned out," he said.

Isner got the spark back quickly, though. The next week he made it to the semifinal round of a Challenger tournament in Champaign, picking up 27 ranking points and rising 11 spots. Isner's results since the U.S. Open haven't been spectacular, but they've been solid. He's made three semifinals and the quarterfinals of two other tournaments to rise from No. 144 in the world to No. 106.

"I did well," Isner said. "I'm pretty sure I accomplished my goal."

The goal was to get high enough in the world rankings to make the main draw of the Australian Open in January without having to qualify or receive a wild card.

Isner should find out if he made the cut in another week or so, but he feels pretty confident he'll be in the 128-player field.

Regardless of whether he makes the singles draw, Isner is certain he'll be playing doubles Down Under. His combined ranking with his partner, No. 22 Ivo Karlovic of Croatia, is low enough to assure them a spot in the main draw.

That means tennis fans in Melbourne will be treated to the sight of Isner and Karlovic, at 6-foot-10 the only player on the tour taller than Isner, towering over the net together.

Don't expect opponents to try many lobs.

Back to basics

As intriguing as Isner's partnership with Karlovic should be, singles is his focus. He knows the temperature in Australia — which is in the heart of summer in January — will be soaring. He knows the expectations of the American tennis public for him will be at a similar level. He thinks he can handle both.

"When I get up there with the bigger players, that's when I start playing my best," Isner said.

"If I get into the Australian Open, I'm pretty sure I can do some damage."

First there is work to be done. So after tonight's exhibition, and a weekend at home with the family, Isner goes back to the practice courts.

"I need to get back down to Tampa and really just focus on tennis and nothing else," Isner said.

He'll be working with his new coach, former Georgia standout Brandon Wagner, and hitting with practice partners such as Fish and U.S. Davis Cup star James Blake.

Calls from Sir Elton will have to be returned later.
 

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Oh man. If they'll take this seriously (I think both will put their emphasis on the singles tournament), I can see them doing very well. How the heck is anyone going to break them? Even if you do get the serve back into play, you'll have a player with great reach at the net putting away the easy volley virtually all the time. Also, in the rare rallies, their combined net coverage would be great. This will be fun to see, no doubt!
 

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if they get together now, practice for a month as a team and really give it a hell of a ago at the aussies, i can't see anybody stopping them.

of course they won't bother practising because they don't care that much, but if they would, they'd win it.
 

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First doubles team to be decapitated by the closing Australian roof.
 

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they need to win return pts too.

They are huge targets at net and players can go straight at them.

it will be interesting for sure
 

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they need to win return pts too.
well, they both did win some matches over the last years, so they're able to do that obviously. plus they won't need to win that many return points as they will probably lose a service game every 5 years or so. so if that whole tennis playing thing doesn't work for them, they can always hammer it home in the tie-break anyways.

the only thing that could keep them from winning the australian open is missing adjustment and fine-tuning of their net games as they've never played together.
 

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Wow. Usually "what if" hypthetical combinations like this never actually happen. :lol:
 

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Look at their results this year.

Isner did win two challenger doubles titles but other than those events he only had 3 doubles wins.

Karlovic made one final but even with that he only had 7 doubles wins this year.

Neither are great doubles players.
One good or bad double player does not make the result of the match alone. But I have not seen them playing doubles so, I'm not able to give a proper argument for my point
 

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Big guys like that tend not to have the quick reflexes and soft hands that really great net play requires. They definitely have net coverage, but I wonder how adept they would be at volleying.
 
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