'Pure Elation': Isner's Grand Slam Breakthrough
Worth the wait.
John Isner, playing in his 41st Grand Slam championship, reached his maiden Grand Slam semi-final on Wednesday, beating 2016 Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic 6-7(5), 7-6(7), 6-4, 6-3 at The Championships.
“Pure elation right now. Very, very happy to be in this position right now in the semi-finals. With how I'm feeling physically and mentally, I'm in a very good spot. I think I can keep doing damage here,” Isner said. “This is amazing. It's by far the best Grand Slam I've ever played in my career, and I've been playing for 11 years. I'm super happy. To do it here at Wimbledon makes it even a little bit more special.”
The 33-year-old American didn't play perfect, but he stepped up exactly when he needed to during only his second Grand Slam quarter-final (2011 US Open, l. to Murray), showing more poise and combativeness than the 28-year-old Raonic, who was trying to reach his third Wimbledon semi-final.
The top American will next meet eighth seed Kevin Anderson, who pulled off the upset of the tournament earlier Wednesday by beating top seed Roger Federer 2-6, 6-7(5), 7-5, 6-4, 13-11. Isner leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 8-3 and has won their past five matchups.
Before this fortnight, Isner had never reached past the third round at SW19. But it's all come together for the 6'10” right-hander the past two weeks, in large part thanks to his world-class serve but also because of his aggressive returning and active net play.
Isner erased the only break point he faced against Raonic and has yet to be broken this fortnight through five matches. He also broke Raonic three times, including twice in the final set. The American won 81 per cent of his net points (30/37).
“I've been serving and volleying pretty well. I think I've covered the net well. That's something I've worked on a lot. I've had some game plans in each match. I've executed them, I think, almost to perfection,” Isner said. “In the big points, this whole tournament, I've been calm and collected and felt like I've played them well.”
After Raonic won the first-set tie-break, it looked as if the Canadian would take a two-set lead. He saw a set point come and go at 6/5 in the second-set tie-break, after Isner had double faulted for 4/4. But the American came back, breaking Raonic at 7/7 and serving out the set.
Isner's return game gradually improved as he became more comfortable in the third set, and he broke in the fifth game. He faced trouble on his racquet, though, at 5-4, 30/40. But just as he had done against Belgian Ruben Bemelmans in the second round, when Isner faced two match points on his serve, Isner served his way out of trouble before racing through the final set. He finished with 25 aces to bring his tournament-best total to 160.
“I didn't have many chances,” Raonic said.
Isner's Wimbledon result is further evidence that he, at 33 years old, is playing the best tennis of his career. In April, he won his maiden ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title at the Miami Open presented by Itau, and at Roland Garros, Isner made the fourth round for only the third time in his career. The American is set to climb to a new career high of No. 8 in the ATP Rankings on Monday when the new rankings are released.