Player Features

Isner Stands Tall At Atlanta Open

Veteran American boasts a 37-6 record at the Atlanta Open
July 24, 2023
John Isner has played in all 12 editions of the Atlanta Open.
ATP Tour
John Isner has played in all 12 editions of the Atlanta Open. By Paul Macpherson

John Isner has been a towering presence at the Atlanta Open during his career, both literally and figuratively.

The 38-year-old has played in all 12 editions of the event, capturing six titles from nine finals. Now deep into his storied career, the former University of Georgia Bulldog has returned to Atlantic Station, possibly for the last time, hoping to write another chapter in his love story with the ATP 250.

“When I first turned pro, the tournament wasn’t even on the calendar, but when it was announced I always thought that it was going to be a great opportunity for me and a tournament that I would never miss,” Isner told Monday.

“And I was spot on. I've done amazing here and I've never missed the tournament. I think they've had 12 editions and I've made the finals nine times, winning six titles. I can’t really ask for much more success than that. The tournament has been a big springboard to success for me during my favourite time of the year.

“I’m definitely very proud of what I have achieved at the tournament. I get that it's not Wimbledon or the French Open, but not many people can say they've won the same tournament six times. The field has always been loaded with very, very good players.

“I also spent four years going to college a bit more than an hour from here, so I have deep ties to the state and the amazing university. Even though I don't live in Georgia it certainly feels like a little piece of home here for me.”

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Isner has won 37 of 43 matches played at the Atlanta Open, often willing his giant frame to victory through the brutal heat and humidity. Look up the word ‘hang dog’ (or is that ‘hang dawg’?) in the dictionary and you’ll likely find a picture of a sweat-soaked Isner deep in a third set at Atlantic Station. And there is no shortage of memories over the years.

“When I beat Kevin [Anderson] in three tie-breaks [in 2013], that was a good one. I lost a couple heartbreakers to Mardy Fish [on debut in the 2010 final and in 2011]. I played Andy Roddick in the [2012] semi-finals here and remember the atmosphere was amazing.

“A couple years ago I won and beat this 19-year-old kid Brandon Nakashima. That was just another good moment. Obviously, it gets hot. It's humid. Physically, sometimes you're not feeling your best. But I've found a way to persevere over the years.”

After a difficult season that has yielded a 7-10 match record, Isner has fallen outside the Top 100 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, but he did rise 23 spots to No. 103 after reaching the Newport semi-finals last week. The 16-time ATP Tour titlist is weighing whether to continue playing after the US Open. A deep run in Atlanta and during the balance of the US swing may determine his future.

John and Maddie Isner with Hunter Grace (4), Hobbs (3), Mack (1 1/2) and Chapel (2 months) at <a href=''>Wimbledon</a>.
John and Maddie Isner with Hunter Grace (4), Hobbs (3), Mack (1 1/2) and Chapel (2 months) at Wimbledon.

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A father of four, family is his top priority these days, although being just 13 match wins shy of joining an elite club of players with 500 match wins is something that will factor into his decision-making process.

“[That milestone] was definitely on my mind at the beginning of the year, and then the year happened; I haven't had many wins,” Isner said. “I maybe turned a corner last week [in Newport], but my body physically this year hasn't allowed me to train the way I want to train and because of that my results have been subpar to the standards that I've held myself to for the longest time now.

“I'm a bit short of 500 wins, but it is something I would like to accomplish. I know very well that it might not happen this year. So we'll see. A lot of it depends on my body and whether it would be up to playing another year. While I would like to accomplish the goal, I’m not going to lose sleep over it if it doesn’t happen.

“I'm in a situation that not many players are in, where tennis is not my priority right now. Of course I want to do well, but family always comes first. I'm fortunate enough that they get to travel with me to tournaments as well. They went to Australia and they went to London and I think they’ll come to Cincinnati.

“They'll certainly come to New York if I decide that it could be my last tournament. Being able to work, play tennis and travel with your family to these amazing, amazing cities is very fun. And it’s a very appealing prospect to try to do it again because I just enjoy my time with them so much.”

Isner opens his Atlanta campaign Tuesday against 29-year-old German Dominik Koepfer.

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