Countdown to Roland Garros – ATP: No. 10 John Isner

John Isner (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
With Roland Garros less than a week away, we take a look at the top ten WTA and ATP players who will be in action at the 2014 French Open and break down their chances in Paris. With world no. 7 Juan Martin del Potro out of the tournament, we begin our countdown with world no. 11 John Isner.

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2013 Roland Garros result: Third round (lost to Tommy Haas, 5-7, 6-7(4), 6-4, 7-6(10), 8-10)

Best result: Third round 2013 and 2010 (lost to Tomas Berdych, 2-6, 2-6, 1-6)

It’s not so much that John Isner is good on clay – although he does have one title on the surface to his credit, in Houston in 2013 – but that he’s not as bad on it as Americans are often expected to be. 

The big-serving American is playing in Nice this week at the Open de Nice Cote d’Azur, where he is the top seed, which doesn’t necessarily speak volumes about his conviction that he can go deep in the draw at Roland Garros – and does underline his need for some wins on the surface after losing his first matches in two out of the three clay events he has played so far in 2014. 

Losing to Dustin Brown in the second round in Houston – where he was the defending champion – after a first-round bye isn’t a very special result; nor is losing to Jurgen Melzer in straight sets in the first round in Rome. Melzer may be a former top-ten player, but he’s also very much in the midst of making his way back from injury and Isner should have been equal to that challenge. 

Isner’s best results so far this season – unsurprisingly – have come on hard courts. He captured the title in Auckland and reached the semifinals in Delray Beach and Indian Wells. He’s also had some surprising early exits and his best showing on clay came in Madrid, where he beat Teymuraz Gabashvili and Marinko Matosevic to reach the third round before losing to David Ferrer.

‘Clay does suit my game very well,’ Isner said in Madrid. ‘I’ve had some very good results on clay and I’ve had some results that haven’t been so good. Sometimes it’s a bit of a slower surface. I think more than that, it bounces up high, which I like because I’m so big. When it’s warm and sunny […] it actually plays pretty fast and the ball bounces up high.’

As Isner alludes to, the high bounce on clay is perfect for the six-foot-ten American and with his huge serve, Isner should be a solid threat to anybody at Roland Garros. And yet he has never been beyond the third round. Isner simply doesn’t have the consistency at this point in his career – at least in tournaments played outside the USA – to be relied on to produce an upset or even to justify his seeding. Reaching the round of 16 would constitute a decent result for him in Paris.

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