ISNER READY FOR AUSSIE BATTLE AT
DAVIS CUP QUARTERFINAL
Ashley Marshall | April 6, 2017
When the Bryan brothers retired from Davis Cup play earlier this year, John Isner became somewhat of a de facto leader of the team, a veteran presence big in both stature and experience. This weekend, he’ll have to call on both of those strengths to help power Team USA past a familiar and dangerous opponent.
The 6-foot-10 American knows the magnitude of representing his country, and he’s ready to face a strong Australian team and boisterous, partisan Brisbane crowd to get the U.S. back into the World Group semifinals.
No two teams have played each other more than the USA and Australia, and Isner is relishing another loud tie with a lot on the line.
“I think most of us are accustomed to really playing for ourselves throughout most of the year,” Isner said at Thursday’s post-draw press conference. ADVERTISEMENT “It becomes very different for us when you put on this uniform – you’re playing for the stars and stripes, you’re playing for your country, you’re playing for your teammates, you’re playing for your captain. It puts a lot of pressure on it.”
America’s No. 2 player behind Jack Sock, Isner will face top Aussie Nick Kyrgios in the second match of the day Friday – Day 1 of play – following Sock’s matchup against Jordan Thompson. Isner beat Kyrgios in Madrid and Montreal, both in 2015, but Kyrgios won the last meeting in the final of Atlanta last summer.
“I’ve played [Kyrgios] three times. In my opinion in think he’s a lot more mature now,” Isner said. “I think right now a lot of people could argue that he’s maybe playing the best tennis he’s ever played. Everyone knows what he can bring to the table, what his strengths are: his serve, his forehand, his backhand, his shot-making.”
Sam Querrey and Steve Johnson are slated to face John Peers and Sam Groth in the doubles on Saturday, with the two reverse singles matches scheduled for Sunday. Sock and Kyrgios will play each other first on Day 3 in a battle of each nation’s No. 1s, meaning Isner may be called on to face Thompson in a decisive fifth and final rubber if the tie is level at 2-2.
“It’s very good pressure. I know me in particular, I’ve had some of my greatest moments in Davis Cup,” Isner said. “I’ve played some of my best matches ever in Davis Cup. I’ve had some moments that weren’t so great, either, but that’s what makes this competition so special, is the gravity of it. I put a lot of stock in the wins and the losses, and the wins feel great, but the losses really hurt as well.”
Isner is no stranger to tough road ties. His first five matches were in Belgrade, Serbia; Bogota, Colombia; Santiago, Chile; Fribourg, Switzerland; and Roquebrune, France – all on clay courts – so the 31-year-old knows a thing or two about earning his stripes and handling a raucous crowd.
With 24 Davis Cup matches under his belt, Isner has contested almost as many rubbers as teammates Sock, Querrey and Johnson combined (27). His 12 singles wins equal those of his fellow Americans, while his 14th tie moves him level with captain Jim Courier for 21st all-time among Americans.
Isner debuted for the U.S. in 2010 in a 3-2 loss to Serbia, but his experiences and memories with the team run even deeper. In 2007 Isner, who had recently won the NCAA singles and doubles titles at the University of Georgia and led his school to the team crown, was a practice partner on the squad that clinched the Davis Cup title in Portland, Ore.
Ten years on from that triumph, Courier said Thursday his team is ready to make another run at the Davis Cup trophy, silverware the U.S. has won 32 times, more than any other country.
“Jack’s going to be ready to go first-ball, he’ll be ready to get playing, and John will be there to back him up,” Courier said. “It’s the same as every other draw. We know what’s going to happen. We’re going to play.
“The guys are adjusted to the time here, feeling good on the court and with the balls. It’s a little bit of an adjustment coming back from the weather they’ve been playing in back in the United States … but the guys are all feeling good, hitting the ball well. I’m very happy. I’m excited for another great three days of competition here against two of the greatest nations this competition has seen.”