For years, John Isner’s results at Wimbledon read like stuck vinyl: first round, second round, second round, first round, second round, third round, third round, third round, second round. Ten years, and not one trip to the fourth round at the All England Club.
He had his high moments: Namely 2010, when he won that match against France’s Nicolas Mahut 70-68 in the fifth. But there have been far more disappointments than triumphs at SW19 for Isner.
The past three years, he lost in the fifth set. In 2015, he fell 12-10 to Marin Cilic; in 2016, he lost 19-17 to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga; and last year, Isner led Israel’s Dudi Sela two sets to one but lost 6-7(5), 7-6(5), 5-7, 7-6(5), 6-3.
“This tournament, since that long match, has sort of been a house of horrors for me. I’ve lost a lot of close ones since that match in 2010, a lot of very, very close ones,” Isner said.
“There was certainly some doubt. When you have left this tournament the last nine, 10 years pretty disappointed with my result, gone home sort of hanging my head a little bit. But not the case this year.”
The ninth seed has built upon what had been his best start to a season, which was highlighted in April with his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title at the Miami Open presented by Itau.
Isner has continued his aggressive return strategy, and he’s also been quick to attack the net on the London grass. During his fourth-round match against Greece’s #NextGenATP star Stefanos Tsitsipas, Isner charged forward 33 times, winning almost 70 per cent of his tries (22/33).
“When I find myself in a good place on the court mentally, not getting frustrated when I miss a chance, things just generally turn out well for me. That was the case (on Monday),” Isner said.
His thundering serve, as always, has helped. The 6’10” right-hander hasn’t been broken yet, having erased all six break points he’s faced. He leads the Wimbledon field with 134 aces.
“I’ve always told myself, ‘Just keep doing what you do, keep giving myself more chances.’ I want to keep coming to this event feeling good, playing well. That was the case this year. I’ve made good on that,” Isner said.
He has more than a standing chance of advancing to his first Grand Slam semi-final as well. Isner leads his FedEx ATP Head2Head series against Raonic 3-1.
“It’s going to come down to a few points here and there. It’s strength on strength, for sure. He serves exceptionally well. He does other things very well, too. He attacks well. He looks for his forehand a lot, which is effective on this surface,” Isner said. “If one of us gets a crack, a few chances, we’re going to have to take it.”