Winston-Salem Open

Isner ready to break through in grand slam event

wrupard@newsobserver.comAugust 8, 2013 

John Isner serves to Dmitry Tursunov of Russia during the semifinals of the Citi Open at the William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center on August 3, 2013 in Washington, DC.

GETTY IMAGES — Matthew Stockman

John Isner thinks he’s ready to break through in a big way.

The Greensboro native headlines the field of the 2013 Winston-Salem Open, which runs from Aug. 18 to Aug. 24 at the Wake Forest Tennis Complex. Isner is the two-time defending champion.

He has played well this summer, reaching back-to-back ATP Tour finals before losing in the first round this week at the Masters series event in Montreal.

The next step, the one American tennis fans have been awaiting, is for Isner to make a significant run in a Grand Slam event. Isner’s best result in a major came in 2011, when he reached the U.S. Open quarterfinals. He hasn’t won more than two matches at any major since, however.

“If I’m playing well, I feel I can beat anyone and that I can go deep in a grand slam,” said Isner, who has won two tour events this year, the third consecutive year he has done that.

Isner has shown flashes of potential throughout his career. He has climbed as high as No. 9 in the world rankings.

He has beaten seven of the top 10 players, including Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. But Isner has struggled with consistency and has battled injuries that forced him to miss the Australian Open and retire in the second round at Wimbledon.

Isner said he’s healthy and ready to continue his recent success. He currently leads the U.S. Open Series, which includes the Winston-Salem Open.

“I’m playing well,” Isner said. “I’m sort of hot right now and hopefully that continues.”

Men’s tennis has been dominated by four players the past few years, which has left top 20 players like Isner wanting more.

Isner said the level of tennis is one of the toughest eras in the sport’s history. Since 2004, Djokovic, Federer, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal have won 36 of the past 39 Grand Slam events.

“It’s an era that has been dominated by those top four players,” Isner said. “They’re so, so good, but so is everyone else. They’re other-worldly and if they were in any other era, they’d be sure-fire No. 1 players.”

Isner says he can make a run at the U.S. Open, which begins Aug. 26. With Federer and Nadal getting upset early at this year’s Wimbledon, Isner said he felt the bracket set up nicely for him, but an injury cost him a chance to advance.

He said the U.S. Open gives him the best chance to win because it’s held on his home soil and is played on a hard court, a surface he says he’s the most comfortable playing on.

Before that, he’ll have more hard-court tune-ups, including the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati and the Winston-Salem Open.

“Winning a grand slam is one of the hardest things in sports, period,” Isner said. “But if I’m playing well and feeling well, I think I can be a tough out.”

Rupard: 919-829-8954

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