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Isner: From Marathon Man To Dangerman

John Isner

Isner© Getty ImagesJohn Isner reached his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 final in March. reviews five storylines from the first quarter of the 2012 season. In the first installment, we look at John Isner’s rise to Top 10 status.

John Isner is no longer just the Marathon Man. With wins over Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in the first quarter of the 2012 season, the 6’9” American has established himself as a serious contender on the ATP World Tour.

“I knew going into this year that I had the tools and I had the game to be able to at least compete with these guys,” he said. “I take the court no matter who I'm playing expecting to win and believing to win. There's really no reason to take the court if I believe otherwise.”

Isner’s confidence took an upswing in the second half of 2011 - he compiled a 25-7 match record and two titles - and the final tournament of the regular season provided a springboard for 2012.

He defeated World No. 5 David Ferrer to reach the BNP Paribas Masters semi-finals, and was narrowly denied a place in his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 final when eighth-ranked Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga saved three match points.

Beginning the year tied at his career-best mark of No. 18 in the South African Airways ATP Rankings, Isner broke through to reach the Top 10 in March - an achievement made more impressive by the way he made his move.  

Facing Federer on clay in Switzerland, Isner stunned the World No. 3 in four sets as the U.S. went on to sweep the home country contingent in the Davis Cup first round.

A month after what he had called the “biggest win of my career thus far”, he prevailed against defending champion Novak Djokovic 7-6(7), 3-6, 7-6(5) at the BNP Paribas Open to earn his place in the Masters 1000 final. It was his first win against a World No. 1 and elevated him to Top 10 status.

“With that serve and with that forehand he's got the ability to be a Top 10 player,” said Djokovic after the match. “He had that already a couple years back. It's just a matter of really trusting your instincts and your strokes and your quality. I think it all came together for him now, and he's deservedly in the Top 10 now.”

Now the self-professed ‘late bloomer’ - who celebrates his 27th birthday in April - is poised to become the top American. He currently stands two positions behind World No. 9 Mardy Fish, with a mere 100 points separating the two in the South African Airways ATP Rankings.

Isner will attempt to lead the United States past France in the Davis Cup quarter-finals this weekend at the Monte-Carlo Country Club, before returning to home soil for the US Men’s Clay Court Championship in Houston, where the top American ranking will be on the line.

“I want to go even higher. I really do believe that I have that in me,” said Isner. “It's just up to me. I'm just going to keep doing what I'm doing. I feel like I have a good program. I have a good training base where I train in Tampa. I have a great coach. I have all the right pieces in place for me. It's up to me to go get it.”

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