Commentary

Marathon man wants more from career

John Isner, known for wild Wimbledon win, takes another big step at U.S. Open

Updated: September 3, 2010, 11:02 PM ET
By Jane McManus | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- Since a Wimbledon win that stretched over three days and into the tennis record books, John Isner seems to have wrestled with its implications. It's probably a little soon for Isner, 25, to get nostalgic over his moment, and it's not the one he wants as his epitaph.

"I'm fine; I embrace it," Isner said. "I think it's really cool what Nicolas [Mahut] and I did that day. It's not gonna bother me. [But] I've said this a lot: I don't want that to be like the lasting image of my career. So that's up to me to make it not that way. It's up to me to do well in big tournaments, tournaments such as this."

Isner got a step farther at the U.S. Open on Friday, defeating Marco Chiudinelli 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7), 6-4 to advance to the third round, where he will meet No. 12 Mikhail Youzhny. These two have played before, and Isner said it can be a challenge.

[+] EnlargeJohn Isner
Matthew Stockman/Getty ImagesThe 6-foot-9 John Isner can generate significant power.

"I played him in Montreal last year, and it was three sets," Isner said. "He kind of ran me off the court the last two sets. When he's on, he's really, really tough. For me, I kind of hope he's not on."

With a wry sense of humor, the 20th-ranked Isner is one of the few men on the ATP Tour who opted for college, attending the University of Georgia. As he played at Louis Armstrong Stadium here, he could hear a packed house in the grandstand next door pulling for 18-year-old Ryan Harrison in a five-setter that will be more anecdotal than historic.

Isner sustained a sprained ankle in the weeks leading up the Open, and he said it left him unable to practice as he wanted. As a result, he felt lethargic and had to push to get through Friday's match. His service game -- 24 aces to Chiudinelli's 14 -- pulled him through. That and a heavy forehand have helped him become the second-best American man on tour, behind No. 9 Andy Roddick. Mardy Fish is No. 21.

Isner said he doesn't feel like his country's hopes rest with him anymore.

"No, I don't feel the weight of it," Isner said. "I think my second year on tour, after I did really well on my first half-year on tour, I kind of felt that pressure. A lot of great things were expected of me, and I regressed in 2008. But now I'm more mature, and I've obviously played a lot of matches. I don't feel any added pressure to do well because I'm American."

At nearly 7 feet tall, Isner stands out on the tour, but he has proved he is more than just a hard-serving player. Now if he can just add more to his biography than an outstanding Wimbledon match, which he won 70-68 in the fifth set, making it the longest in terms of time and score.

He saw Mahut the first day of the Open, and the two greeted each other like players who will be forever linked.

"To be honest, we didn't really talk about the match," Isner said. "We just talked with each other and asked each other what's been up lately."

Ultimately, that means moving on. For now.

Jane McManus is a columnist for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow her on Twitter.

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Jane McManus has covered New York sports since 1998 and began covering football just before Brett Favre's stint with the Jets. Her work has appeared in Newsday, USA Today, The Journal News and The New York Times. Follow Jane on Twitter.

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