John Isner: Is the One-Time Tiebreak King’s Best Behind Him?

John Isner in action.

John Isner is spending less and less time on the circuit, and it is hard not to feel that the twilight of the American’s career is rapidly fading into night. Isner, who has a career-high ranking of World #8, has struggled for most of the last 18 months. There have been some solid runs, including in Cincinnati last August–where he reached the last eight–and more recently in Dallas where he was runner-up to Wu Yibing. But deep runs have very much become the exception rather than the rule for the big American.

He is certainly not the player he was five years ago, when he enjoyed a career-best season at the Majors, reaching the semifinals at Wimbledon (losing a memorable encounter 24-26 in the fifth set against Kevin Anderson) and the quarterfinals at his home Slam in New York. Last year at the US Open, however, he withdrew ahead of his second-round match against Holger Rune. He did not even make it that far at this year’s Australian Open, going out in the first round to Adrian Mannarino.

In the recent Dallas final, the American was against Wu Yibing. This was a very tight match, and all three sets were tiebreaks. Isner claimed the first and lost the remaining two. However, the final set was an extremely close one, and the Chinese edged through to the title.

The following week Isner was due to play Delray Beach, but he never took to the court at this event. The most recent event that the 37-year-old played was the Mexican Open, where he lost to third seed Taylor Fritz in three sets. Only one of his recent matches that didn’t actually involve a tiebreak.

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John Isner’s Career

Isner will always be known for serving lots of aces in. He will also be known for tiebreaks as previously mentioned. However, Isner will go down in history as one part of the longest tennis match to date. Taking place at Wimbledon in 2010, the first-round match (yes, first round) lasted 11 hours and 5 minutes. The match took over three days, and played havoc with the schedule. It wasn’t rain that caused the delay, it was just the length of the match.

In 2010 Grand Slam matches didn’t have a tiebreak in the fifth set, they just kept playing until someone was two games clear. Isner eventually managed to claim that honour, but it was a mammoth effort and the scoreline reflected that. At the ATP event in Dallas, where Isner made the final he created yet more history. The American became the first man to win 500 tiebreaks. This was achieved in the quarterfinal, so by the time the final rolled round, he’d won even more.

Isner doesn’t win every tiebreak he plays. He lost in Dallas in three tiebreak sets. There was also the memorable loss to James Ward in the first round of the Davis Cup, when GB went on to win the whole thing. That match proved vital for the Brits, and Ward, who was ranked far below Isner, became a hero overnight. Isner, in contrast, was visibly upset after losing that match.

Isner has never won a Grand Slam, but does have one mMsters title to date, and 15 other Tour singles titles. If Isner decides to follow Roger Federer and retire, he can still be proud of his achievements. He may have regrets about not winning a Grand Slam, but as there are only four a year; not everyone can win one of those.

Main photo credit: Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports