First Serve: February 10, 2012
John Isner: Isner is just 26 but has a career's worth of dramatic matches on his CV, some ending well (2009 U.S. Open vs. Andy Roddick; 2010 Wimbledon vs. Nicolas Mahut), others otherwise (2011 French Open vs. Rafael Nadal; 2011 Paris Masters vs. Tsonga; 2012 Australian Open vs. Feliciano Lopez). Whatever your opinion of the American's game, you can't fault his effort. The man gets everything he can out of his abilities, which is a lot, as Roger Federer found out Friday in Davis Cup. Federer's losses aren't stop-the-press news anymore, but his four-set defeat to Isner certainly was, not only because it was so unexpected—the match was played on clay, in Switzerland—but because of how Isner performed. His massive serving was, of course, on display, but Isner hit some forehands that looked even faster than his aces. Federer wasn't off the hook when he was serving, either—Isner returned magnificently, recalling Novak Djokovic with some of his replies. It all came together in the final game of Isner's 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-2 upset, when, while serving, Federer was treated like a warm-up pitcher at a home run derby. This match didn't go very long, time-wise, like so many of Isner's other memorable moments, but it may be the one with the most long-term ramifications.
Angelique Kerber: If a top seed falls at the Open GDF Suez and no one watches, did it really happen? Yes, it did. Around the same time Isner became the hot tennis topic, a wire report revealed that Maria Sharapova had been upset in the Paris quarterfinals. It's surprising in some ways—look at how well Sharapova has played in recent Grand Slams—but not others, specifically in that the Russian's serve can go awry without warning. Sharapova gave Kerber five break-point opportunities, and the German converted every time. Like the Isner-Federer match, the bigger story is about the winner, in this case Kerber, who if you forgot was a semifinalist at last year's U.S. Open. That was a result many considered a fluke, a byproduct of a weak women's draw, but a look at Kerber's results this season suggests otherwise. She's already reached two semifinals (Auckland and Hobart) and won her lone Fed Cup match against Lucie Hradecka. The only tournament that could be considered a disappointment would be the Australian Open, where she lost in the third round to...Sharapova. That ought to make Kerber even happier with her play today.
Match of the Day
The doubles rubber in the Switzerland-United States tie: Coming into this tie, we thought the doubles might be a must-win match—for the Americans. But after Friday's happenings, Switzerland has no room for error and must win three straight matches to advance, starting with this one. It would be a shock if anyone but Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka competed for the Swiss; as for the Americans, that's up for debate. Presently, captain Jim Courier lists Mike Bryan and Ryan Harrison as the team. The most likely substitution seems to be putting in Mardy Fish for Harrison, but needing only one more win to take the tie, Courier might consider saving Fish for an on-short-rest Federer, should the tie still be live on Sunday. That's the only alteration I can see happening, because a rested Isner vs. Wawrinka—the fifth rubber, should it be necessary—looks like an automatic W for the U.S., at this point at least.
I couldn't get to First Serve yesterday, what with our "Davis Cup Memories" feature. I wrote on last year's final between Argentina and Spain, and here's some additional color to set the scene:
Ed McGrogan is the online editor of TENNIS.com.