Read & Watch: Isner Hungry For Another Newport Title
John Isner has picked nearly the perfect spot to continue his comeback from a foot injury. The 34-year-old American accepted a wild card into the one of his favourite tournaments, the Hall of Fame Open in Newport, and is the top seed at the ATP 250 event, which Isner has won three times.
He's been more successful at only one other tournament, his home BB&T Atlanta Open, which Isner has won five times. The 6'10” American played collegiate tennis at the University of Georgia, only 116 kilometers away from Atlanta.
“I've had a lot of success [in Newport]. When I first started playing this tournament early on in my career, I didn't have much success and I was struggling with the courts. But I finally I think learned how to play on these courts and since then I've always done pretty well here,” Isner said.
The right-hander lost his opening match the first two times he played on the Newport grass (2007-08). But he learned quickly, winning back-to-back titles in his next two appearances (2011-12) and in 2017. Since 2008, Isner has failed to reach the quarter-finals only once, in 2015, when he lost to eventual champion Rajeev Ram of the U.S.
“Certainly I really enjoy playing here,” Isner said. “This place is so historic and this tournament has been here for so long. It's been so successful for so long.”
Isner broke his left foot in the Miami Open presented by Itau final against Roger Federer and missed all of April, May and June. He returned earlier this month at Wimbledon, where the 2018 semi-finalist made the second round (l. to Kukushkin). But Isner isn't worried about transitioning from the SW19 lawns to Newport.
“I don't think it's that big of a change coming from Wimbledon. Of course the grass isn't completely the same but it feels the same underneath your feet. Maybe the bounces are a little bit different but going from Wimbledon to here it's, in my opinion, it's pretty easy,” he said.
Because of the time away, Isner has dropped in the ATP Rankings to No. 15, his lowest spot since 19 March 2018. The 14-time ATP Tour titlist spent much of his time away resting, which was a change from his usual rehab from injuries.
“I hurt my bone and as anyone will tell you, bone is bone. Of course you can take some more vitamin D and try to do everything you can, but you just have to stay off of it. That's been the most difficult thing for me because... anytime I've had anything hurt I've been able to actively rehab it. This, you really can't do that that much; you have to just let your body heal itself,” he said.
“I was pretty motionless for a long time. I don't think I hit a ball for 10 weeks, so I didn't start practising until a week before Wimbledon. It's tough but I wasn't dwelling on it by any means. I've been very fortunate to be healthy. Injuries are a part of all sports, and tennis is no different, so I just... enjoyed my time at home.”
He couldn't compete on the ATP Tour, but Isner did gain plenty of quality time with his wife, Madison, and their 10-month-old girl, Hunter Grace.
“It’s not that we wouldn’t have had that time, I think they would have travelled during the clay-court season. It’s just waking up in the morning and being with my daughter for a few hours as opposed to 30 minutes as I’m getting ready for practice and going about my day,” Isner said last month. “It’s very, very special for sure. She’s in her formative years, and it’s just been great.”