John Isner: Being America's #1 tennis player is no biggie
John Isner is America’s best men’s tennis player but for a country which has been without a Grand Slam champion for 11 years, it’s not an achievement he’s shouting about.
Isner is the United States’ only player in the top 60 at number 11 but has never got beyond the quarter-finals of a major.
It’s all a far cry from the glory days when Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Jim Courier, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick were winning Grand Slams and sitting on top of the rankings.
“I’m the No. 1 American now, which isn’t as cool as being the No. 1 American in the ‘90s or something or the 2000s,” admitted Isner.
“It’s pretty neat to say, but it’s nothing I would brag about or anything like that.”
Isner’s latest attempt to push deep into a Grand Slam ended in a tame straight sets defeat to Tomas Berdych in the fourth round of the French Open on Sunday.
The 29-year-old from North Carolina had been hoping to be the first American in the last-eight in Paris since Agassi in 2003.
That was also the year that his country last saw major title for its men when Agassi won in Australia and Roddick triumphed at the US Open.
From 1989 to 2003, the United States celebrated at least one Grand Slam title winner every year, mostly due to the dominance of Sampras and Agassi.
Roddick failed to add to his 2003 US Open win but had heroic failures in three Wimbledon finals – against Roger Federer in 2004, 2005 and 2009 – and in New York in 2006 again losing to the great Swiss.
Isner’s best remains a run to the last eight at the 2011 US Open.
“I am trying to just keep improving my ranking as best I can. If I’m No. 1 American or four in America, whatever, I just want to try to keep getting higher,” said the 2.08m (6ft 10in) giant.
“I’m going to keep working at it. Luckily I feel good. Even though I am 29, I feel like I have a lot of good years ahead of me.”
Isner refuses to be too downcast about the future of men’s tennis in the US even though the next American player in the top 100 is Steve Johnson who stands at 64 and has already celebrated his 24th birthday.
“I think a lot of the guys are a lot better than their ranking,” he said.
“We’ll see some guys that are going to get into the top 50 I think pretty soon.”