John Isner Finds Hard-Court Form as US Open Looms

Michael Ann McKinlayContributor IIIAugust 21, 2013

CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 17:  John Isner celebrates his win over Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina during the semifinals of the Western & Southern Open on August 17, 2013 at Lindner Family Tennis Center in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

The US Open Series has a way of being kind to its American players.

Just ask John Isner. 

From a title in Atlanta to his finals in Washington, D.C. and Cincinnati, Isner—along with Rafael Nadal—is one of the hottest players coming into the US Open.

Isner reached his second hard-court Masters 1000 final in his career this past week in Cincinnati. To get there, he defeated three top-10 players—Milos Raonic, Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin del Potro—before losing to Rafael Nadal, 7-6 (8), 7-6 (3).

"I thought I played well," Isner said via ESPN. "Unfortunately for me, I ran up against one of the greatest tennis players of all time."

Though Nadal has been unstoppable during this summer hard-court swing, it was a major turn of events for Isner’s mediocre 2013 season. With his run in Cincinnati, it boosted his ranking from outside the top 20, to No. 14.  

But will this recent run produce a successful US Open campaign for the American?

The encouraging part of Isner’s game is how aggressively he played this summer, especially in Cincinnati. He served smart against great returners in Djokovic and del Potro with high-risk second serves including kick and body serves. 

Isner’s groundstroke game also looked more aggressive with approaches to the net and cranking winners from the baseline.

But, as Isner knows, he’ll have a lot more pressure on him as he enters the US Open as the top American male seed. The last time Isner reached the second week at a Grand Slam was the 2011 tournament, where he reached his first-ever Grand Slam quarterfinal. This pressure could lead to an early exit for Isner, as his Grand Slam performance this year has been subpar, mostly due to injuries.

With that said, Isner knows he created an opportunity by rising in the ranks—which should potentially give him a better draw—and shouldn’t disappoint the American crowd.

As we saw in Cincinnati last week, Isner can reach within himself and fight his way through if the crowd is behind him, much like Andy Roddick in his heyday. 

The US Open Series gave Isner the extra boost of confidence he needed to propel himself into the last Grand Slam of the year. He'll be one to watch at Flushing Meadows.