2014 Season Preview: John Isner
Nobody can trigger wild fluctuations between giddy hope and dark despair quite like John Isner. That’s mainly because when he’s on his game and firing aces like rockets, he can dominate anyone—including Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic. This year in Cincinnati, Isner scored back-to-back-to wins over then-No. 10 Milos Raonic, No. 1 Djokovic, and No. 7 Juan Martin del Potro.
Somehow, though, Isner hasn’t been able to put—and keep—the pieces together long enough to break through and establish himself in the Top 10 on a regular basis (he’s been as high as No. 9—for a week). That’s a little surprising, given that Isner is ranked No. 2 in break-points saved (career) and trails only Roger Federer in tiebreaker winning percentage (Isner was 38-18 in tiebreakers last year).
Given those stats, you might reasonably wonder, “How come this guy isn’t winning more tournaments, or big matches?” It’s an intriguing question to which there’s only one good answer: Isner is losing too many matches he ought to win. He won two titles in 2013, but he was a so-so 39-24 on the year.
Ad-In: Isner could really strike the fear of God in his rivals if he begins to beat lesser ranked players more consistently (he lost 11 matches to players ranked outside the Top 50 in 2013) because it will enable him to get more cracks at the elite pros. He needs to play more consistently, and bring high energy to his matches more frequently in order to do that.
Ad-Out: Isner could survive quite a few more years with his present profile; on any given day, he can fire enough aces to pull out matches, or string a few wins together. But that’s the danger for him, too. By leaning too heavily on that big serve and follow-up forehand, he can continue to tread water and never quite maximize his potential.
As we approach the new year, we'll take a closer look at what's in store for the past year's top performers. To read more of our 2014 Season Previews, click here.