John Isner produced arguably the most memorable match in the history of Wimbledon with his 138-game marathon final set against Nicolas Mahut in 2010. The American put on a show for the crowds at the All England Club, etching his name well and truly into the history of the sport.
However, his exploits over the course of his mammoth game against Mahut resulted in a premature exit from the competition in the second round. But Isner continued his love of Wimbledon in 2018 by reaching the semi-finals, his furthest progression in a Grand Slam.
There, the American endured yet another marathon contest in the deciding set, this time against Kevin Anderson. The South African had just enough skill to topple Isner by a 26-24 margin to advance to the final, leaving the ninth seed unlucky once again at the All England Club. At the age of 37, Isner’s best days are behind him, although he is still backed in the odds for a bet on Wimbledon at 200/1 to win the tournament, which would be a remarkable achievement considering the talent in the men’s game.
Isner does appear to be the best-placed American to make an impact at Wimbledon due to his experience and record on grass. Incredibly, an American has not won at the All England Club since Pete Sampras’ last triumph in 2000. Andy Roddick was the last man to reach the final in 2009, where he was beaten in a thriller by Roger Federer.
Isner has produced the best performance by a men’s player from the States since then, displaying the nous and guile under pressure to advance to the semi-finals and always seemingly punching above his weight every year. There are talented players beginning to emerge from the States, but it could be too soon to attempt this tournament as far as they’re concerned. Isner, on the other hand, has the knowledge to succeed on grass, which is backed up by his record on the surface, winning 66.22% of his games.
The demands of grass are different from the hard courts, on which a lot of Americans play in their founding years in the game. It is natural that American players gravitate towards success in the hard court tournaments on the ATP Tour along with the Australian and the US Opens. But Isner has bucked the trend and his size may have something to do with that.
At 6ft 10in, he possesses a powerful serve that allows him to capitalize on the grass surface. A number of players in the history of the sport have found success with a serve and volley strategy such as Roddick, Anderson, or even past Wimbledon winner Goran Ivanisevic. It perhaps explains why Isner has played so many marathon matches over the course of his career, possessing a deadly service game, but ineffective at breaking his opponents.
The 2022 Wimbledon competition could be his last ride at the All England Club. He has the skills to create a stir and it would be fitting for a man that has left a mark on the tournament to bow out with another defining moment.
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