John Isner Booted from Citi Open

By Jane Voigt

August 2, 2018 — "Take shelter! Lightening in the area." People scattered as the skies above the Rock Creek Park Tennis Center opened up yet again this week. Not one ball was hit until 6 p.m. as high winds, thunder and lightening delayed matches at Citi Open, which had originally been scheduled to kick off at 2.

Isner v. Chung003A

John Isner, the number two seed, lost his opening round match at Citi Open Thursday evening. The American was upbeat at his press conference, but the loss definitely stung.
Photo credit Karla Kinne 

To the consternation of John Isner, the number-two seed, the wait was too much. He was supposed to have played his first match of the tournament, actually a second-round encounter due to a bye in round one, Wednesday night. But that never happened. He and opponent American Noah Rubin were put on court twice, the second time at 12:30 a.m., but, again, rain spoiled the party.

“My opponent had more energy than me,” Isner said, after losing to Rubin 6-4, 7-6(6) Thursday. “On my first break point I missed a volley. I thought if I got that it could change the course of the match. It was tough, pretty humid as well… just wasn’t my day."  

Looking like a man in his late 40s rather than a spry 33-year-old, Isner never got his giant serve in gear, a stroke that anchors his game. And like all tour players who realize their opponent is not having a good day, Rubin stepped up. 

Isner admitted that he “had felt better out there before,” but also that he had won matches when his energy was low. “But Noah was tougher than me today. Everyone out here is so good today,” Isner said. 

Rubin’s reaction was subdued. He seemed to respect Isner's loss more than the fact that he had just won the biggest match of his career: His first top-ten win. Currently ranked 152, a career high, Rubin is well known for winning the Boys Wimbledon title in 2014 and singles and doubles at the USTA Junior National Championships. 

Isner arrived in Washington, having won Atlanta for the fifth time last Sunday. It was a high point of his career that had been tacked on to his first semifinal appearance at a Grand Slam at Wimbledon and his first Masters 1000 title in Miami. 

“We’re all in the same boat. It’s certainly not ideal,” John said, about the delays  “Mentally, it’s taxing. You’re just sitting around for hours waiting for the rain to stop. Then it stops and you have thirty minutes to get ready.”

With Rogers Cup coming up next week followed by Cincinnati and then the U.S. Open, Isner seemed relieved about the loss.

“I always play Atlanta and this one quite a lot,” he began. "You never want to lose but you have to find the silver lining in things. And for me this could very well be a good loss. I do think I need a little bit of a rest. And, there are some big tournaments up ahead.” 

Even if Isner looks at this loss “as a blessing in disguise,” his scheduling choices for next year should reflect what happened here at Citi Open. Playing back-to-back-to-back hard court tournaments, after coming off a big fortnight at a major, might not be the ideal plan. Isner’s lean six-foot-nine frame doesn’t recover as fast as players’ that are shorter and more compact. He has had multiple problems with his knees and hard courts are the worse for body joints. 

“I’ll have a bye at Rogers, which is good,” he added. “If I had won tonight … wow… I would’ve had to play another match in an hour, so holy crap. Rubin … he’ll be fine.”

NOTE: Rubin lost to Andrey Rublev (No. 16), 6-3, 6-2, later Thursday night. The Russian was playing his second match of the day, as well. Earlier he’d eliminated American wildcard Tommy Paul, 7-6(5), 6-4. 

© Jane Voigt Tennis 2013