Existing as one of the top tennis players in the world is intimidating enough, but then there is standing at 208cm tall and holding the record for the fastest official ATP serve. The latter involves big-serving American John Isner. The former was also relevant back in his prime where he attained a personal high ranking of world number eight. Sadly, time has caught up as fast as he serves for the 38-year-old who has struggled to stay fit and perform consistent at the highest level.
As a result, he announced on social media that the upcoming US Open would be his swan song and allow the home support to send him off with a well-deserved tribute.
After 17+ years on the @atptour, it’s time to say goodbye to professional tennis. This transition won’t be easy but I’m looking forward to every second of it with my amazing family.
The @usopen will be my final event. Time to lace ‘em up one last time,” he wrote on Instagram.
Known as the ‘tiebreak king,’ perhaps the greatest indication that Isner’s time has passed him by is his alarming 10-15 (40%) record in breakers so far in 2023. Sitting top of the all-time ace leaderboard with 14,528 to his name, many have been critical of Isner’s game as being too one-dimensional and boring with little engagement in rallies. Unlike his giant American counterparts in Maxime Cressy and Reilly Opelka, Isner has never really been blessed with the variety to give him the best chance to break serve.
Everyone has their own opinion, but we must come to appreciate arguably the deadliest weapon that the game has ever been accustomed to. It is still an art that almost every player on the tour wishes they had in their armory to acquire free points. Taking away Isner’s serve would be the equivalent of forcing David Beckham to take a free-kick on his left foot or limiting Stephen Curry to only shoot two-pointers. Perhaps we should’ve seen this retirement coming. Ahead of the final grand slam of the season at Flushing Meadows, the former two-time US Open quarter-finalist was left at a crossroads. Speaking in an interview before the Atlanta Open last month, Isner confirmed that he had a lot of thinking to do before making a decision on his future. “I’m a bit short of 500 wins, but it is something I would like to accomplish. I know very well that it might not happen this year. So we’ll see. A lot of it depends on my body and whether it would be up to playing another year. While I would like to accomplish the goal, I’m not going to lose sleep over it if it doesn’t happen,” he said. Holding a win-loss record of 8-13 (38%) thus far this campaign, it seems as though reality has kicked in. In and amongst a 17-year professional career after starting out at the University of Georgia have come with some special memories to cherish. Before injuries and a dramatic dip in form, Isner experienced the best year of his tennis journey back in 2018 as he achieved his most successful grand slam result with a semi-final appearance at Wimbledon. A few months prior to that, the American was virtually unplayable as he powered his way through to his maiden Masters 1000 title in Miami. Unexpected to reach the final, let alone win it, Isner highlighted how much the victory meant to him after the battle against Alexander Zverev during the trophy ceremony. “You can’t replicate moments like this. I’m toward the latter part of my career; this is the best moment of my career.” Above all, what fans will remember Isner the most for is his stunning contribution to the longest tennis match in history at the All England Club 13 years ago. Just a regular first round encounter against Frenchman Nicolas Mahut on court 18 turned into the most extraordinary 11-hour and five-minute marathon spread across three days. Isner finally broke through 70-68 in the decider to break the record books. It prompted calls during the match for the Queen to watch in attendance and made news headlines around the world. It was those 665 minutes that embody just how tough it is to break down the colossal that is John Isner. Let’s not forget his success in a team environment, winning five Masters doubles titles along with playing a part in the inaugural Laver Cup for Team World. For a player who is literally head and shoulders above most competitors on the tour, Isner will stand tall one final time in New York to salute what has been a remarkable career.