carry torch for college tennis
Arthur Kapetanakis | July 12, 2018
Wimbledon semifinal opponents John Isner and Kevin Anderson have squared off 11 times in their professional careers, but their tennis rivalry started in college, when Isner played for the Georgia Bulldogs and Anderson represented the University of Illinois.
Friday's match between the two will be the first meeting between two former college players in a Grand Slam semifinal since 1996, when Mal Washington defeated fellow Northwestern University alum Todd Martin, also at Wimbledon.
The two squared off several times in their NCAA careers, most notably in the 2007 Division I team final, when Isner’s squad toppled Anderson and the Fighting Illini, 4-0, for the national title. In the No. 1 singles matchup, Isner defeated the South African, 6-1, 7-6.
Both men enjoyed outstanding college careers before moving on to the professional tour.
Isner, a four-year all-American from 2004-07, set Georgia records for wins in both singles and doubles. In addition to the 2007 NCAA team title, he also won the 2005 NCAA doubles title with partner Antonio Ruiz and reached the 2007 singles final.
Anderson, who recorded three all-American years at Illinois from 2005-07, also won an NCAA doubles title, with partner Ryan Rowe in 2006. In his third and final year on the team, the big man reached the 2007 NCAA singles semifinals and doubles final.
Isner looks back on his college days as the perfect stepping stone to a successful pro career.
“College tennis for me was the perfect avenue to where I am now,” he said at a Wimbledon press conference following his quarterfinal victory over Milos Raonic.
“Had I not gone to college, I wouldn't be sitting here right now. The thought of going pro out of high school never entered my mind."
The former Bulldog, who has clinched a new career-high ranking of No. 8 with his semifinal run, is happy to carry the torch for the college game.
“For me, this matchup, and I think for him, as well, is especially cool. It's a very nice spotlight on college tennis that one of us, no matter what, is going to be playing in the Wimbledon final.”