- David Ching, ESPN Staff Writer
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John Isner might have to accomplish something otherworldly for his performance in the upcoming Olympics to become what he is best known for at London’s tennis venue: the historic grass courts of Wimbledon.
The former Georgia all-American forever etched his name into the sport’s history books in 2010, when he won an 11-hour match against Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon, finally clinching victory by a 70-68 margin in the fifth set.
Isner has hardly taken a break to prepare for the London Games, having gone deep into tournaments in each of the last two weeks -- first beating Lleyton Hewitt two weekends ago in Newport for his first ATP title of the year, then losing to U.S. teammate and doubles partner Andy Roddick last weekend in the semifinals in Atlanta.
“I’m turning my focus to the Olympics now,” Isner said after losing to Roddick. “I haven’t been thinking about it before now because I had to focus on the tournaments at hand over the last two weeks. It’s a different experience and I’m not sure what to expect. I guess it will seem like a second Wimbledon.”
Isner didn’t experience much of the first Wimbledon this year, falling to Colombian Alejandro Falla in the first round of the singles draw. But he has won seven of eight matches since then, returning to the form of early in the season that helped him earned wins against world No. 1 Roger Federer and No. 2 Novak Djokovic and climb as high as ninth in the world rankings.
Now No. 11, Isner enters his first Olympics as the highest-ranked American men’s player, but he will have to win six consecutive matches against significant competition to medal in London. Although defending gold medalist Rafael Nadal recently pulled out of the Games with an injury, Federer, Djokovic, hometown hero Andy Murray and Roddick, among others, will also be in the singles draw.
Isner will also team with Roddick in doubles as the second U.S. pairing alongside Bob and Mike Bryan and has lobbied to play mixed doubles with Serena Williams.
“We’ve never played together, but it’s not rocket science,” Isner said of teaming with Roddick.
Between all of his tennis obligations, the proud former Bulldog also hopes to revel in his time as a member of Team USA. Logistics might make that difficult, but after being severely disappointed when he was left off the 2008 U.S. team, Isner appreciates even more the opportunity he has in London.
“I’m excited about the Olympic experience itself,” Isner said. “I hope to be able to watch some other events, but I’ve heard Wimbledon is far away and the traffic is pretty bad. I hope to be able to catch some other events and see what it’s like.”
4dGreg Ostendorf and Alex Scarborough