Isner On Returning At Wimbledon: 'I Can Be Very, Very Dangerous'
When American John Isner hurt his left foot in the Miami Open presented by Itau final against Roger Federer, he originally hoped to return in Madrid in the second week of May. But it turned out that the 2018 Nitto ATP Finals qualifier actually broke his foot, and he is first making his return to action at Wimbledon, where he reached the semi-finals last year.
“The expectations are low. Most importantly, it’s about getting out of this tournament healthy because that will give me confidence going forward. I am fully fit, my foot is fully healed. You really never know, but of course you have to get out there eventually and I do believe that I’m healthy now, so I think first and foremost it’s that,” Isner told ATPTour.com Friday with his nine-month-old daughter, Hunter Grace, by his side. “I don’t really know what would be a successful tournament or not. I do know that if I could get some momentum and get comfortable, I can be very, very dangerous. The hard part is going to be trying to establish that momentum and establish that comfort on the court.
“It could just be one match. It could be I lose in the first round and I’m healthy and I’m happy with that as well, so I’ll take whatever comes.”
The hope at first was that Isner would miss between four to six weeks with a stress reaction/fracture. And at the very least, he hoped to be ready for Roland Garros. The early images were inconclusive due to initial inflammation and when Isner found out about five weeks after Miami that he had indeed broken his foot, his sights turned to Wimbledon.
“If anything it just changed my expectations a bit. I think a lot of times getting over an injury is just about knowing what you’re dealing with and I actually didn’t quite know what I was dealing with,” Isner said. “I knew I was in a lot of pain and I guess I had heard something I wanted to hear, which was maybe that I could get back in four to six weeks, but that was unrealistic given the injury I had.
“It was relieving and I guess less frustrating because I was getting pretty frustrated every morning when I woke up and my foot would still hurt a bit. Any athlete will tell you that if you have any pain in your foot, you can’t do anything. You certainly can’t play through it, that’s actually impossible, especially when there’s an injury to your bone.”
Isner was only able to start walking normally again about three weeks ago, and he used the stationary bike as much as he could to stay in shape. He wasn’t able to practise at all until last week.
“It was just uncomfortable to walk or try to walk. It was a big issue. You have to learn how to walk before you can run,” Isner said. “For a long time I couldn’t walk normally at all.”
Isner likes to look at the positive side of things, and this injury meant he got more time to spend with his family at home.
“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. “It’s very, very special for sure. She’s in her formative years, and it’s just been great.
“She watched a lot of NHL playoffs with me. I was home throughout the whole deal. I actually went to a bunch of games in Dallas where I live, went to a few games in Raleigh because I’m a big Carolina Hurricanes fan. She got to take in some sports. Too early to tell what she’s a big fan of, though.”
Isner will now turn his attention to The Championships, where he is defending 720 ATP Ranking points from reaching the last four last year. But the American says that points come and go, and he doesn’t focus much on the points that are on the line.
“It’d be crazy if I think I could make it back to the semi-finals this year,” Isner said. “Anything is possible, but the facts are that I have not been able to practise at all up until last week.”
In the first round Isner faces #NextGenATP Norwegian Casper Ruud for the first time. Ruud has never played a tour-level grass-court tournament.
“I know he’s a very, very solid player. He’s a very young guy, too. His best years are way ahead of him, so I’m going to have to use experience to my advantage, if possible,” Isner said. “But grass has not necessarily become a bad surface for smaller, baseline guys like Casper. So I know he’s going to be ready to play. He’s an exceptional player. He’s one of the best young players that we have in the game as well, so it’ll be a very big challenge for me.”