If there was any indication that American John Isner could rest assured the worst of his recent injury problems were behind him, capturing his second title of the year would be a solid indicator.
Isner did just that, defeating South African Kevin Anderson in the finals of the BB&T Atlanta Open in three tiebreak sets. That win was expected to push him back into the top 20 of the ATP World Tour rankings.
Can a top-10 run be far behind?
It's been less than a year since he was among the game's elite. But upon falling from such lofty heights, he's notched some mixed results. After winning the tournament in Winston-Salem, North Carolina last year before the U.S. Open, he failed to reach a quarterfinal over the rest of 2012.
His 2013 campaign got off to a rough start; he was forced to withdraw from the Australian Open before it started due to an injury.
Upon his return, Isner battled through some spotty results before notching one of the most impressive performances by an American on clay in recent years, winning the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championship. What was surprising was the fact he defeated two of the game's premier clay-court players, Juan Monaco and Nicolas Almagro, back-to-back in the semifinals and finals, respectively.
After that, the European clay was unkind to him. He only won one match leading up to the French Open. In Paris, there was more heartbreak—Isner dropped a tough five-setter to Tommy Haas.
At Wimbledon, Isner sustained an injury early in his second-round match. Everyone seemed snake-bitten at that tournament this year.
But returning to the grass in Newport, Rhode Island offered some comfort. While the two-time defending champion failed to win the title, he did advance to the semifinals, providing a solid burst of momentum entering the summer hard-court season.
That's seven wins in his last eight matches for Isner, a good foundation to build upon in the months ahead. What will be crucial in his quest for the top 10 is defending his semifinal points from the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event in Canada last year.
But if he fails to do so, deep tournament runs at other events could propel him back among the top 10 as he'll have few other points to defend the rest of the year.
If what he showed in his victory over Anderson in Atlanta is any indication, where he faced two match points against him and still won, Isner is up for the challenge.