There were times you had to wonder if John Isner was paid by the point.
He never made it easy and what could go wrong usually did at the US Open.
But this year, no problem. Six sets up and six sets down. And now after Isner dispelled Mikhail Youzhny, 6-3 6-4 6-4, he cruises into the third round.
“Like I always draw it up,” Isner said. “Couldn’t have asked for a better start. Six sets, not a tiebreaker either in any of the sets. It’s a great start. I felt good on the court physically. I’m playing the right way, which is important.
“I’m playing aggressively, not getting in too many extended rallies out there. I conserved a lot of energy. I’m certainly fit.”
Unlike past years, Isner is returning the ball well. He admits he won’t remind anyone of Novak Djokovic out there, but it’s an improved aspect of his game.
Youzhny saw that today.
“I’m very happy with how I’ve been returning second serves,” Isner said. “Hitting it very aggressively. Following some into the net. Putting all sorts of pressure on my opponent. In the first set he double-faulted on breakpoint. Close as it could be. Thankfully we had the challenge system.
“But, no, that’s a good sign when players feel like they need to squeeze a second serve on the line, near the line against me, because it shows me I’m doing the right thing. It’s easier said than done, for sure, but I’ve got to try to keep it up.”
The past few years, Isner always had problems in the third round and didn’t make the second week. But an older and wiser player may knows what has to be done.
And part of that is working in the humid conditions at Flushing Meadows. Fellow American Jack Sock was forced to retire today, which saddened the highest ranked U.S. Player.
“It’s a huge bummer,” he said. “No offense to his opponent today, but if Jack’s body held up, he would have won the match, so… Huge bummer, especially at his home Grand Slam. He obviously was playing well, too, up until that point. Good thing for Jack is he’s very young. He’s very, very good. So he’s going to have a lot more cracks at this tournament, that’s for sure.”
As for Isner, you can’t blame him for being what he is. He knows he’s not an elite player, but he’s still very good and can make some waves.
And if he gets to next week, you never know what happens.
“There’s a level of pressure before any Grand Slam, let alone the US Open,” he said. “The US Open, I guess, maybe a little bit, you know, with being American. The one thing I have on my side every year here is it’s a surface I really like. The fans are on my side, which helps so much.
“I played well here every year of my whole career really. I have gotten tripped up in the third round the past few years. But I’m again in the third round. I’m playing well. A lot of things are going well for me.
“I feel like the pressure’s really off.”