LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 04: John Isner of The United States plays a forehand in his Men's Singles second round match against Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan during Day four of The Championships - Wimbledon 2019 at All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 04, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

John Isner returns to Atlanta Open after eventful calendar year

John Isner’s last calendar year featured highs and lows, with both points including things he’s never experienced before. 

For one, in 2018 on Sept. 15, Isner’s first child was born, a daughter, Hunter Grace. On the other hand, he had what he calls the most significant injury of his career in May when he suffered a stress fracture in his left foot in a match against Roger Federer at the Miami Open. 

Isner returns to Atlanta for the BB&T Atlanta Open in a different spot than a year ago. His perspective on life in general has changed once Hunter Grace came into the world. However, he admits he was playing the best tennis of his career last year after a run to the Wimbledon final. This year is different, but the goal is the same, where he hopes that his play in Atlanta will helping going forward in future tournaments.

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“I’m going to have to install some confidence from the fact that I’ve played so well in Atlanta in previous years,” Isner told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It won’t be as easy as it was last year, the field for Atlanta is … incredibly tough. (But), there’s something about going back to a place that you feel very comfortable in, and Atlanta is certainly that place for me.”

When Isner steps back to look at the events of the past year, he considers tennis, but he thinks first as a parent. He shined when he knew he was able to come home to a new member in the family. 

He reached the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open in New York several days before his daughter’s birth, and he followed that with a trip to the semifinals at the Stockholm Open the following month. 

“It’s been a big blessing,” Isner said. “Tennis is not even close to the most important thing going on in my life right now. It’s still important, but family comes before that. I think it’s helped me relax a little bit on the court.”

A common thread for Isner is new experiences. His injury in Miami forced him to sit out several tournaments, undergoing a 10-to-11-week recovery process. Having stayed relatively healthy his entire professional career, it was something new for the 34-year-old.

Although he knew he would eventually heal, he said the hardest part was going to Wimbledon this summer after not having played a match and rarely practicing for three months. 

“It’s a tough injury to have. … It just took some time,” Isner said. “But it happens, injuries (are) a part of sports.”

Isner said he watched this year’s Wimbledon final match between Novak Djokovic and 37-year-old Roger Federer and was inspired by Federer’s play. He nearly defeated Djokovic, but failed to convert two match points in the fifth set. It gives Isner some confidence that he can keep it going a few more years.

“The fact he’s playing so well at this age is truly incredible,” Isner said. “The fact that he’s moving so well and everything, I think, for me, seeing that, it helps me out.”

In 2018, returning to Atlanta gave Isner a chance to continue his success, what he called one of the better stretches of his career. This year, he hopes he can use the experience to return to form. 

“This is the time of year that I really enjoy playing, so I think Atlanta can definitely be a springboard for success for me,” Isner said. 

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