Greensboro native John Isner competes at Australian Open

Andreas Combos, Sports Editor

North Carolina’s own, 29-year-old John Isner, competed at the Australian Open, one of the four yearly Grand Slam professional tennis tournaments mid January, seeking an elusive major title.

Down under, the 21st ranked Greensboro native lost in the third round of the event to unseeded Gilles Muller, 7-6, 7-6, 6-4, continuing his grand slam struggles in recent years, having not been able to to make a quarterfinal since the 2011 US Open.

Being the top ranked American for the last few years, Isner has been expected to perform well in the majors, most notably because of his serve. He was second in the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) Tour in aces, or untouchable serves, with 970 last year. Isner’s serve, which has reached a speed of 149 mph, allowed him to reach his career high ranking of No. 9 in 2012.

Patrick Newsome, senior on the Athens Men’s Tennis Team, expressed his admiration for Isner as a player.

“It is insane, the amount of free points [Isner] is able to win with his serve,” said Newsome. “A serve like that can really help when matches are extremely close. He usually wins most tiebreakers.”

Despite his serve being among the best in men’s tennis, Isner has struggled to find success in the best of five sets format at Grand Slam tournaments; his nine titles in smaller, best of three set tournaments have not translated to the bigger stage in which he has made it past the fourth round just once in 27 attempts.

“His serve is a lot more dangerous in the best of three set format. In the Grand Slams, the top players usually have plenty of time to figure out a way around the big serve throughout a five set match,” said Newsome.

To prepare for the Australian Open, Isner chose to represent his country in the annual Hopman Cup, held in Perth two weeks earlier, alongside Serena Williams, where he played four singles and four mixed doubles matches. The pair fell to Poland in the final of the event.

Isner erased his bad fortune in Australia by traveling back to his hometown to host his annual charity event at UNC Greensboro, the Ebix Charity Challenge, featuring James Blake, a former top ranked American, and the Bryan Brothers, the No. 1 doubles team in the world. The proceeds from the event benefitted UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, which successfully treated Isner’s mother for colon cancer.

“His ability to go from playing pro tournaments across the world for lots of prize money to giving back to his hometown in an exhibition event says something about his character. He’s a down to earth player,” said Newsome.

The 6 foot 10 American, who attended Walter Hines Page High School in Greensboro, and played tennis collegiately at the University of Georgia, will aim to perform better at the next three Grand Slams, most immediately the French Open in May, followed by Wimbledon and the US Open.