French clay clear as mud for Isner
Date published :
28 May 2012 - 18:16:52
Recent American tilts at glory at the French Open have come to grief on the slow red clay with Andre Agassi the most recent US champion back in 1999.
Since then, those seeking to emulate Agassi and another former champion in Jim Courier have not even come close.
But 10th seed John Isner says he's intent on putting that poor record since the turn of the century to rights after seeing off unseeded Brazilian Rogerio Dutra Silva 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 in Monday's first round.
Isner's chief claim to fame thus far, at least outside his homeland, is taking more than 11 hours to win a Wimbledon match in 2010.
But if he is a rather less charismatic figure than Agassi, American fans will happily accept as much after a 33-tournament wait for a Grand Slam men's title winner since Andy Roddick lifted the 2003 US Open.
Ironically, the 2.06m Isner's showing against Dutra Silva was rather less engrossing than defeat here at the same stage 12 months ago.
On that occasion, he stretched six-time champion Rafael Nadal to five sets -- having held a two sets to one lead.
Recent false starts in the shape of early claycourt losses in Madrid and Rome have taken some of the gloss off a Davis Cup win over Roger Federer and two more over France pair Gilles Simon and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at Monte Carlo.
But Monday saw the 27-year-old from Greensboro, North Carolina produce a well-oiled display as he booked a second round meeting with either Paul-Henri Mathieu of France or Bjorn Phau of Germany.
Spanish sixth seed David Ferrer could then loom as a prospective quarter-final opponent.
"I think I'm gonna continue to improve as this tournament goes on. I'm not looking past my next match, but I'm very, very happy to get the first one under my belt."
Regarding scrapping on the dirt, Isner, who took his Roland Garros record to 3-3 on what is his fourth visit, said: "Personally, I don't mind clay. I don't care what surface I'm playing on. I don't care if it's mud."
He added that if his serve is on the mark then he can progress on any surface - even if he is mostly seen as a hardcourter.
Asked to pinpoint the reasons behind his rise up the rankings, Isner said: "You know, it's not a thing of me really working harder. I have just been winning a few more matches, and from that I've been gaining confidence.
"I have always sort of been a very late bloomer... I still think that a lot of my best tennis is ahead of me."
Isner spent four years at college in Georgia and said he believed the experience had benefited him.
"It was a very good decision, and I don't regret it at all. I mean, I think kids nowadays should at least look at the college route at least for one year at the very minimum. This game is so physical now. You don't see many 18 year old kids inside the top 100, top 50 in the world. For guys, it takes a little bit longer to develop."
Isner says beyond his French Open ambitions he wants to team up with Roddick and win the Olympic doubles though his main focus would be singles.
"The Olympic Games is obviously huge. It's really like the fifth Grand Slam this year. To have it at the mecca of tennis, really, at Wimbledon makes it a lot more special."