John Isner, the 22-year-old, 6'9", 236-pound tennis giant from Greensboro,N.C., who turned pro in June, right after leading Georgia to the NCAAtitle.
HE SOUNDSFAMILIAR BECAUSE
After earning a wild card to the U.S. Open, Isner won his first two matches toset up a match with Roger Federer—then he took a set off Federer before losingthe next three.
WHAT MAKES HIM SOTOUGH
His huge serve. Isner fired 18 aces against Federer, the fastest at 140 milesan hour. "It's not so much the speed," said Federer after the match,but rather that "because of his height advantage, the ball is coming downat such a high angle." At the Legg Mason, Isner's second ATP tournament, hehit 144 aces and went to the finals. Tenth-ranked Tommy Haas, whom Isner beatin the Legg Mason quarters, said, semiseriously, "The tour should come upwith a system where if you're over 6'6", you can't play."
IS HE THE TALLESTATP PLAYER EVER?
No. He's edged out by 6'10" Ivo Karlovic of Croatia (a.k.a. Dr. Ivo), whois ranked 30th. "People think we're the same height," says Isner (whois ranked No. 144). "But they measured us in Cincinnati. We stoodback-to-back, and I was a little shorter." Karlovic leads the ATP this yearin aces (886) and percentage of service games won (94%). "People are dyingto see us play each other," said Isner. "That would be one for therecord books."
Isner first picked up a racket at age nine—"Most kids are getting ready forthe juniors around then," he points out—after his older brother Jordanturned him on to the game. Not surprisingly, he also played hoops. "KarlMalone was my idol," says Isner. "There were times when I was 13 or 14and I would have to leave a tennis tournament early to fly across the countryand play in an AAU basketball tourney. Too demanding. I finally gave upbasketball my freshman year of high school. I thought I would fare better witha racket."
U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe has invited Isner to be a practicepartner at the Davis Cup semifinal tie against Sweden, later this month."He'll learn a lot practicing with Andy Roddick and James Blake," saidMcEnroe. "And he's certainly a breath of fresh air for Americantennis."
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CHUCK SOLOMON (ISNER)
DAMIAN STROHMEYER (HUGHES ACTION)
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