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Isner Feeling Clay-Confident In Madrid

Madrid, Spain

Isner© Getty ImagesJohn Isner is through to the second round in Madrid.

John Isner is into the second round at the Mutua Madrid Open. It could spell trouble for the rest of the draw at this ATP World Tour Masters 1000 clay-court tournament.

It’s been that sort of year for the American. Three first-round exits have been compensated for by victory in Auckland (d. Lu), and semi-finals in Indian Wells (l. to Djokovic) and Delray Beach (l. to Cilic).

His successes this season have seen him reclaim a spot in the Top 10 of the Emirates ATP Rankings, and Isner is keen to stay there with good results off the hard courts and outside of the U.S. He made a good start Monday, beating Teymuraz Gabashvili 7-6(8), 6-4 in Madrid. 

“It’s been up and down [this season],” Isner told “I’ve lost some first rounds, but in the tournaments where I’ve been able to win my first match, I’ve been able to keep on winning from there. I’m very pleased with the year so far. For me, it’s all about how I do outside of the United States, I need to do better and I’m off to a good start.”

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Competing for the first time in four weeks, the ninth-seeded Isner hit 14 aces and lost 10 of his first service points in the victory over qualifier Gabashvili. It was his first clay-court win of the season, having not played since a first-round loss to Dustin Brown in Houston.

“I feel like I competed very well out there and on top of that I felt like I played well from start to finish,” said Isner. “I played really well in the first set. Had a lot of chances, but I just didn’t capitalise on them. I was able to win a super-close tie-break. I served extremely well. When I serve like that, I’m very tough to beat and it bodes well for me.

“I’ve been at home for a long time,” continued the Greensboro native. “I thought about coming over [to Europe] earlier in the year, but I decided not to. I’m a home boy. I like to stay at home as much as I can, but I also love it over here. 

“This is the best weather I’ve ever seen at this tournament in my five years playing here. It’s beautiful and I’m glad to be here. The heat suits my game, it makes it bounce high and it’s a good surface for me.”

With the heat and the altitude, Isner is optimistic of a good start to his clay-court run in Madrid, where he is making his fifth appearance. The 29 year old is no stranger to success on the dirt, with notable wins over Roger Federer in Davis Cup two years ago, Stanislas Wawrinka in Belgrade in 2010, a clay-court title in Houston last year, and coming closer than most to derailing Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros three years ago.

“Clay does suit my game very well,” said Isner. “I’ve had some very good results on clay and I’ve had some results that haven’t been so good. Sometimes it’s a bit of a slower surface. I think more than that, it bounces up high, which I like because I’m so big. When it’s warm and sunny, like it is today, it actually plays pretty fast and the ball bounces up high. That was the case today and I took advantage of it.

“It really doesn’t take me too long [to find my confidence on clay]. Winning a match like today helps. If I hadn’t won that match, I’ve got a week to think about it. Each time you go out and play a real match and you’re able to win, it helps so much and gives you confidence going forward. This tournament and Rome next week are huge tournaments and I want to do well.”

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