Isner, 33, Shares His Secret To Playing His Best Tennis Yet
John Isner’s secret to playing his best tennis at the age of 33: Not caring as much about the result.
The No. 1 American, who’s the top seed at the BB&T Atlanta Open this week, has worked on playing more aggressively as he’s reached career-best marks past the age of 30. The 6’10” right-hander approaches the net more often and swings through his returns.
During his Wimbledon quarter-final, when Isner beat Canadaian Milos Raonic to reach his first Grand Slam semi-final, Isner raced forward 37 times, winning 81 per cent of those points (30/37), and converting half of his six break points.
But Isner said, in addition to a change to his game, just as importantly, he’s feeling more confident about his new approach.
“It’s not necessarily that I’m playing more aggressively, while I am… I think I’m able to do that because I’m more comfortable out there on the court, more relaxed. Not so much worried about the result. Of course it’s great to win, if I lose, so be it,” Isner told ATPWorldTour.com.
It hasn’t always been that way for the American, who’s at No. 9 in the ATP Rankings this week. In the past, he has clammed up in tie-breaks, feeling more worried about the final score than how he’s hitting.
“There have been a lot of times where I’ve been too wrapped up in the result,” he said. “I’m not doing that lately, and I think that’s one of the reasons I’ve been playing so well.”
Watch: Isner Hears The Dawgs Barking
Off-court joy has also helped. Isner married longtime girlfriend Madison McKinley last December, and she is pregnant with a baby girl due 22 September.
“There’s a lot of things going on in my life, a lot of very cool things going on in my life that I think are helping,” he said.
Few tournaments bring out Isner’s best tennis than the BB&T Atlanta Open, where the former University of Georgia Bulldog has won four titles from seven finals and owns a 27-4 record at the ATP World Tour 250-level event. His worst showing was a semi-final loss to Andy Roddick in 2012.
“A lot of factors, I think, go into me playing so well here. I think for one, the surface is very good for me. I’m most comfortable playing on hard courts. It’s of course what I grew up playing on. On top of that I prefer playing in the United States. Throughout my career, I’ve always played my best tennis at home,” Isner said.
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“This tournament, in particular, is really home, because I went to school so close to here. There are so many Georgia Bulldog fans here in Atlanta, and this tournament is supported so well. When I’m playing, I have a lot of crowd support, the Dawgs are barking for me, and it spurs me on to play some good tennis.”
As the season enters its final four months, Isner is targeting his best finish yet – his first year-end Top 10 ATP Ranking and his debut at the season-ending Nitto ATP Finals, to be held 11-18 November at The O2 in London.
“A huge goal of mine is to make that tournament in London, I also want to finish in the Top 10,” Isner said.
“At 33, I feel like I’m playing my best tennis ever, which is super encouraging for me going forward. It’s incumbent on me now to keep pushing on the gas pedal and keep pushing forward.”