John Isner

The U.S. Open's marathon man

by Jon Wertheim


“Game, set, match,” the Wimbledon chair umpire intoned. Then he took a deep breath: “6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 70-68.” After three days and 11-plus hours, the scoreboard froze and John Isner was quite literally the last man standing. Understandably exhausted, he lost his next match, but by then “Izzy” was a cult hero. He jetted back across the Atlantic to go through the media car wash, serving up David Letterman’s Top Ten List and throwing out the first pitch at a Yankees game. “All this attention,” he says, still incredulous, “just for playing a long time.” Yet Isner’s epic feat has obscured this fact: With Andy Roddick straddling the baseline of his late 20s, Isner is America’s best tennis hope for the future. And at six feet nine, the North Carolina native is able to use his height to generate tremendous leverage on his serve. “It’s like the ball’s coming from a tree,” Roddick once declared. Isner will look to build on his ranking and newfound celebrity at the U.S. Open. “I consider it my bread-and-butter tournament,” he says. “I’m definitely looking to go far.”

Grooming by Diana Schmidtke at the Wall Group