On Thursday, July 12, Greensboro’s John Isner battled on the green grass of Wimbledon for 6 ½ hours. It was the longest semi-final in the tournament’s storied history. Wimbledon is considered tennis’ most prestigious event, featuring 128 of the worlds best players. Isner blasted his way into the semifinals beating several top players along the way including Greece’s very best up and comer, Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Canada’s top player, Milos Raonic.
Isner met South African Kevin Anderson in the semifinals for a chance to play in for the ultimate championship in tennis. Isner, a former Page High basketball and tennis star, stands 6’10” tall and was on his way for setting the record for the most aces in Wimbledon history. Anderson was almost as tall at 6’8” and backed up his booming serve with a crushing forehand. Anderson was fresh off a massive upset of the number one seed and arguably the greatest tennis player the world has ever seen in Roger Federer. Both men play power tennis, and on slick grass, that power is often rewarded with aces and groundstroke winners.
With both players being incredible servers, breaking serve would prove extremely difficult. The match predictably started with both players blasting several aces and unreturnable serves. On serve, both men were making contact over 10 feet off the ground and were hitting up to 140mph serves. The first set would see no service breaks as it went to a tie-break. Anderson got the better of Isner winning that tie-break 8 to 6. The first set was desperately close with very little separating the two foes. The tightness of the first set would set foreshadow a long close match.
Isner managed a break in the second set, but aggressive returns by Anderson leveled the set to bring about another tiebreaker. A mere two points would separate the two warriors once again, but this time Isner owned the advantage. Isner would go on to win both the 2nd and 3rd sets by the narrowest of margins. He stood just one set away from reaching his first grand slam final. Anderson fought back though to decisively win the 4th set 6-4.
Anderson had the momentum going into the 5th and deciding match. However, Isner is as much known for his calm composure as his incredible serve. He stayed calm but focused as the battle raged on past 4 hours, then 5 hours. Grand Slam rules dictate that there would be no tiebreaks in the last set. The winner would have to be a decisive victor. So at 6 games to 6 they played on and on and on.
John was no stranger to long matches at Wimbledon. Back in 2010, he won an epic 11-hour match against France’s Nicolas Mahut. That match lasted three days after darkness and weather condition halted play twice. The final score that day was 6–4, 3–6, 6–7, 7–6, 70–68. You read that right 70 to 68! That final set by itself was longer than the previous record-setting longest match. That match eliminated both players’ chances in the next match. An exhausted Isner lost badly the next day to a much lower ranked player.
Back to Thursday and John must have known his chances of becoming the 2018 Wimbledon champion were fading fast. The match was in the 6th hour, his size 17 feet were swollen and blistered. At 15 to 15, even the fans following around the world, including Woodruff Family Law Group’s Stephanie Griffin were exhausted. Still, neither player would back down. Anderson and Isner continued bombing 130 plus mph serves and holding serve. At 20 to 20, they were too tired to celebrate outstanding shots.
At 24 to 24, the match was by far the longest semifinal match in grand slam history. Facing a critical break point, Isner was exhausted but never gave up, he boomed a serve but it landed short, and Anderson pounced to crush a winner past John’s 7-foot wingspan. The match was over, and Anderson wearily hugged John, knowing that they were a part of a historical moment.
For his efforts, John would climb to his highest ranking ever, 8th in the world! Anderson would advance to 5th in the world. Eighth in the world is not bad for a local kid who played basketball and tennis at Page High School in Greensboro, where Woodruff Family Law Group’s Lisa Comito taught his brother. Unlike most young tennis proteges, Isner chose to finish high school and then attend the University of Georgia. He ignored calls to turn pro early. He put on 30 pounds of muscle and added 20 mph to his serve. After four years, he graduated college as an NCAA Champion and entered the professional ranks. He was completely prepared for life as a professional tennis player and has been the top US player for almost a decade. He won the Winston Salem Open twice and has beaten every player in the top 10, winning the 2nd biggest prize tournament in America at the Miami Open.
We here at Woodruff Family Law Group are proud to call John Isner a Greensboro native and champion who never gives up and continues to work hard to improve. His dedication to excellence and incredible stamina inspires us to fight for you in and out of court.
by Mark Griffin, blog writer