So, John Isner has withdrawn from the Australian Open. This is incredibly sad because he is the top American, I am a fan of his, and it’s of course sad when anyone is too injured to do their job. But it also leaves me wondering what in the world is going on with him. So I thought I’d write a quick post about it.
If he was struggling with injury why did he even come to Australia in the first place? He didn’t have many points to defend and he was hobbling from the second he got there. And of all tournaments, Hopman Cup is certainly not the one to enter if you’re injured because you have to play at least six matches! Then, after he withdrew from Hopman Cup, he still played in Sydney! Throughout, he was vague about what exactly the injury was. First he said it “might” be tendinitis. MAYBE. Uuum … that’s certainly something he should know for sure. He’s a tennis player and he’s tall and knees are important! Also, I’m pretty sure there are people who can tell him with 100% certainty if he has tendinitis or not. They’re called doctors. People tell me that when you have money and insurance you can go see them in person and not just look up your symptoms on WebMD.
Apparently betweeen Hopman Cup and Sydney he did see a doctor and decided it was a bone bruise that made him questionable for the Australian Open. He worried that in Melbourne he might not be able to win more than a few matches. This made me feel like I was missing something, because when has winning matches in a Grand Slam ever been a guarantee for Isner? Did he block out last year’s Grand Slam performances? Actually, for his sake I hope he did. Because I’m scarred for life.
But wait. Before I get carried away with the negative, I’d like to put things into context. John Isner has, for all intents and purposes, overachieved. Or at the very least he has far exceeded expectations. Nobody predicted the awkward and ridiculously tall baby-faced guy who almost dominated in college tennis would go on to be a top 10 player who would beat Federer and Djokovic and push Nadal to five sets on clay. Nobody expected him to be the top American. But he’s done all those things. This is his reality now. Now a loss before the second week of a major is seen as a disappointment. Now he’s expected to peak at majors, to properly schedule, and to not get routined by Ryan Harrison. Even though nobody predicted it, he’s earned these expectations fair and square. Unlike so many others there was no hype surrounding him. He didn’t have the weight of a nation on his shoulders before he turned 18. He got the chance to come into his own and to develop into the best player he was supposed to be on his own schedule.
Now he’s 27 years old (almost 28!). He’s ranked No. 14 in the world. It’s time for him to grow up.
I’m sick of the insane lulls where he gets sad and pouty and doesn’t play well. I understand that Europe is different from America. I also understand that he’s a grown man and a professional and he should learn to adapt. I understand that he feels comfortable in Newport and that he plays in Winston-Salem because it’s his hometown tournament. I get it. I’m from his hometown. It’s fun to stay with parents and drive to the tennis. But if he’s serious about being the top American and about at least getting to a Grand Slam semifinal, then it’s time to start scheduling like it. Make the tough decisions. Disappoint some sponsors and friends. The window is short, and it is closing.
It’s time for him to start taking his health seriously. Tennis is a physical sport and it’s even more demanding for a guy who’s 6’9″. He should go to the doctor. He should take the necessary breaks. He should not wear himself out at ATP 250 events. AND FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, WHEN HE IS IN GRAND SLAMS HE SHOULD NOT GET SUCKED INTO UNNECESSARY FIVE SET MATCHES WHEN HE HAS ALL THE TOOLS TO BEAT THE PLAYERS IN THE FIRST FEW ROUNDS SWIFTLY AND EASILY AND ECONOMICALLY AND WITHOUT GIVING ME A HEART-ATTACK.
Sorry, I got carried away. This post is not very quick, and I don’t even feel like I’ve covered most of what I wanted to say. I guess I’m just frustrated because Isner is a nice guy. And he comes from a nice place. And it’s great that he’s succeeded as much as he has. But it seems like he’s just constantly getting in is his own way, and that makes the future feel very, very limited.
What do you guys think? Am I being to hard on Isner? What does the future hold? And do I get a prize for going through this entire post on Isner without mentioning either “m” word?