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Isner Eyes Third Desert Doubles Crown: 'It's So Nice, You Don't Want To Leave!'

Americans Isner/Sock seek fourth ATP Masters 1000 title as a team
March 11, 2023
John Isner seeks his third Indian Wells title with Jack Sock.
Peter Staples/ATP Tour
John Isner seeks his third Indian Wells title with Jack Sock. By Arthur Kapetanakis

For defending and two-time champions, home favourites John Isner and Jack Sock are flying under the radar this year at the BNP Paribas Open.

The Indian Wells doubles draw is often loaded with a healthy smattering of singles stars in addition to the world's best duos. This year is no exception, with Indian Wells debutants Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov joining new-look teams like Frances Tiafoe and Stan Wawrinka, Ben Shelton and Holger Rune, and Casper Ruud and Dominic Thiem among in the 32-team field — thought the latter two pairs have already bowed out.

When the ATP Masters 1000 event put out a Twitter poll asking which of those four teams fans were most excited to see, Sock and Isner chimed in with a write-in candidate.

"No love for the defending champs? ๐Ÿคจ" Sock said. To which Isner replied: "Defending and two time champs. Ouch. ๐Ÿ˜"

"They tweeted something out and Jack took umbrage to that, and rightfully so I think," Isner told, flashing a smile after the pair's first-round win on Friday night. "The crowd always enjoys watching us play here. We're two-time champs. Two years ago, I had to leave for the birth of my kid as we were making our way through the draw. I really like our chances. I really think we could become three-time champs. We'll try to get that done this year."

Acknowledging the star-studded field in the doubles draw, Isner gave a simple explanation for why so many singles players double up in the desert — an answer which also provided insight into his competitive spirit.

"It's a 12-day event. The timeframe of the tournament, it allows you to play doubles," he explained. "And it's just so nice out here, you don't want to leave. Truthfully, I'd be really disappointed and quite frankly mad if we lost that [first-round] match. I want to come here and I want to practise a little [on Saturday] and see what can do the next day in doubles."

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Isner fired a forehand winner on match point at 9/7 in a Match Tie-break against third seeds and reigning Roland Garros champions Marcelo Arevalo and Jean-Julien Rojer to wrap up the opening-round match in style. The clutch winner sparked wild celebrations at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden — though Isner missed his partner's "side bump" as he got lost in the moment, leaving Sock to improvise what looked like a version of Cristiano Ronaldo's goal celebration.

The Americans have another tough test against two-time Roland Garros champ Kevin Krawietz and eight-time tour-level doubles titlist Fabrice Martin in the Indian Wells second round Sunday. But with the power both men possess, they don't spend too much time strategising based on their opponents.

Similar to the doubles mentality Nick Kyrgios discussed in the first episode of Netflix's Break Point, Isner says he and Sock prefer to focus on playing to their own strengths rather than getting bogged down with too many tactics. 

"I have an advantage playing with Jack. I don't want to overload Jack with too much, and especially my game is pretty straightforward," he said.

"Honestly, truthfully, I feel like we put a little pressure on ourselves [on Friday night], which we shouldn't do. Winning this tournament twice, you want more. We need to take that pressure off of us and we'll see if we can do that in the next one."

Isner is seeking his ninth ATP Tour doubles titles and a sixth at the Masters 1000 level. In addition to his two Indian Wells trophies with Sock (2018, 2022), he also won the 2016 Shanghai crown with his fellow American. In addition, Isner won the 2022 Miami title with Hubert Hurkacz and the 2011 Rome title with Sam Querrey.

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