The Last Time With… John Isner
John Isner has won five titles in the past 10 editions of the Truist Atlanta Open, and he is looking to keep that dominance going this week at the ATP 250 event. The 36-year-old foodie is not shy about dropping his name at tournament cities – including Atlanta – to try to get into a nice restaurant, but when was the last time that it actually paid off?
The big-serving American is the latest player to feature in our popular Q&A series, and he revealed The Last Time…
I strung a tennis racquet?
Oh that’s a good one… I’ve been very spoiled there, it was in juniors. Maybe 16 years old. Even in college we would have someone who would string our racquets. We were very lucky there. And ever since I turned pro I haven’t had to. But I remember I had an Ektelon Stringing Machine, one of the best stringing machines out there for sure.
Actually, I used to be pretty good. I was quite meticulous about how I went about it. I was very particular. I mean, I dreaded doing it, but it was something my parents made me do simply as a cost-efficiency thing. When you think about how much the stringing fees are, I would say over the course of my whole junior career I definitely more than paid for that thing.
It was a good lesson to learn. My parents bought that machine for me, and they made me do my own racquets, which I guess gave me some discipline as well.
I shared a hotel room with another player?
Gosh, I guess I’m so spoiled. It had to have been right out of college. I think 2007, in Aptos, California. There was an ATP Challenger [Tour] event out there. That must have been the last one, and luckily I got my ranking up pretty quickly after that and I didn’t have to do that again.
I paid money to rent a tennis court?
I remember I paid money in Shanghai a couple of years ago. The drive from the hotel to the tennis courts can be pretty far. I had an off day, and I was able to find an indoor court nearby, super close by in the city. I was lucky enough to get a court, even though I had to pay for it. I forget what the conversion rate was, but I swiped my credit card for maybe $20 or $25 [USD] and practised. So it was well worth it to save the hour and a half drive in the car.
I was recognised or dropped my name, and it helped me?
I’ve played the ‘I’m a tennis player’ card trying to get restaurant reservations before in some of the cities we’ve been at. A lot of times it actually doesn’t work and they don’t know who the hell I am. But sometimes it does work… It does work in Atlanta, sometimes.
I remember being in Paris at the famous restaurant, L’Avenue. I like to eat. I don’t spend money on a lot of things, but I do spend money on eating well. So I went to L’Avenue and I dropped a ‘I’m playing at the French Open’ and I was able to get in. I felt… Well, I was pretty shameless, actually! [laughs]
I asked someone famous for an autograph or selfie?
It’s not a selfie, but I had [U.S.] President George W. Bush sign an autograph for me. I got to meet with him, and got a photo with my wife and daughter with President Bush. He kindly signed it for us, and I thought that was very, very cool.
Really, only living presidents are about the only people I would ask for an autograph. Whether it’s Jimmy Carter, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, whom I’ve met, or Donald Trump – I think that would be very cool. But honestly that could change as my kids get older. We’ll see who they look up to, whether they’re athletes or entertainers. I would have no shame in asking those people to give my kid an autograph.
I cooked for friends or family?
That was this morning. In Atlanta, we get these mini-apartments here with a little kitchen. My family is here with me, my wife and kids are here, and I love to cook them breakfast. I do that every day when we’re at home anyways. I’m kind of particular with what I feed my kids, so having a little kitchenette with a grocery store literally right next door has been great. We got eggs, oatmeal, and the cereal that they liked. I definitely love cooking for my kids.
I went to a music concert?
I think it was a Taylor Swift concert. That was probably about six months before the pandemic set in, so it would have been 2019, maybe right around after the US Open.
I made my debut at an ATP Tour event?
Last week in Los Cabos. But prior to that… oh man. Good question. Chengdu in 2019. I’m pretty sure that’s the correct answer...
I visited a city for the first time?
For the first time? It would be… off the top of my head, that would be last year in May. So a little more than a year ago. I went to a place called Alcoba in Wyoming to go trout fishing. It was great, and it was a lot of fun.
I missed a flight?
Off of my own doing, never. I mean, I’m not one of those people who has to get to the airport crazy early. But I guess I’ve just had good luck, because I’ve never really encountered horrible traffic or a wreck on the way there or anything like that that would hold me up. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of an instance.