John Isner always let it be known he loved the old Louis Armstrong Stadium and he went on record saying it was his favorite place to play.
Today, he had the chance to play at the new edifice bearing the same name.
“Oh, man, that was incredible,” Isner said. “Unbelievable court. I’d like to play there again in a few days. I don’t know if that’s possible. That was fun. I played three matches on Grandstand, which is an incredible court. I don’t think it compares to that one. That new Armstrong court is very special. I’m glad I got to play out there today.”
Well it helped that he won, beating Milos Raonic, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2. Now he has to talk to the schedule maker for his quarterfinal match on Tuesday.
“Today was different,” Isner said. “Felt a lot of support. It helps so much. Adrenaline plays a huge part in tennis, especially at a tournament like this for an American like myself. My relationship has always been amazing with this tournament. The fans are incredible. I’d love to have them on my side in the next one.”
This is a different Isner this year. We have seen him flame out in the past and play down to the competition. He’s different now, even at the advanced age of 33. Something seemed to click and now, Isner is the great hope of American tennis.
“I think this year, since Miami of course, I really turned a corner there,” he said. “There are some matches I’ve played where I only just rely on my serve. But I think more times than not this year I’ve shown some other ability. That comes from just being relaxed on the court. It’s not a product of more reps and more practice. The mental part of the game, being able to free up on the tennis court is much easier said than done. I’ve been able to, for the most part this year, do a pretty good job of that.”
He seems wiser, knowing what he can and can’t do. Isner always had the big serve, but now is more of a complete player. It showed at Wimbledon and it’s showing here.
And Isner is winning the matches, he usually loses. In the past these five setters would go to the opposition, but this year, he has won two this week, including against the Canadian today.
Part of it is coaching and part of it may be marriage and being on the precipice of fatherhood. He seems to be very pleased with his team these days.
“I haven’t really worked with, like, a mental coach or anything,” Isner said. “The coaches that I have have done an incredible job with me, obviously the stuff we work on on the court. Even more importantly than that, the stuff we talk about off the court, getting myself in the right mindset.
“Justin (Gimelstob) has been a huge help to me. But the man that doesn’t get much publicity is David Macpherson. He’s the most underrated guy in tennis, in my opinion. Incredible coach. Glad to have him on my side.”
And now he’s two wins away from his first US Open final and his first Quarterfinal since 2011. A win so far, he may have an uphill battle aheads playing the winner of Juan Martin Del Potro or Borna Coric. One is a former champion and the other, he hasn’t really played.
“It will be a very tough ask for me, but one I’ll be looking forward to,” Isner said. Even if it’s on Arthur Ashe Stadium and not the new Armstrong.