Friday, June 25, 2010
Updated: June 26, 11:12 AM ET
Worn-out Isner loses in 2nd round
WIMBLEDON, England -- John Isner dragged his weary, 6-foot-9 body back out to play in Wimbledon's second round a day after finally winning the longest match in tennis history, an 11-hour, 5-minute affair that ended 70-68 in the fifth set. Not surprisingly, every movement was a chore.
Also not surprisingly, the 23rd-seeded Isner lost 6-0, 6-3, 6-2 to 49th-ranked Thiemo de Bakker of the Netherlands in 74 minutes Friday -- the shortest men's match at the All England Club so far this year.
"Right now, I just can't wait to sit down on a couch for a prolonged period of time," Isner said. "I spent a lot of hours on my feet the last three, four days. I just need to sit back and rest and let my body recoup."
Bending his knees, chasing his opponent's shots, even grabbing a purple towel to wipe away perspiration as the temperature approached 80 degrees under the noontime sun -- all required too much energy and effort after what Isner went through in his previous match against Nicolas Mahut. That 183-game "ordeal," to use Isner's term, began Tuesday, was suspended twice because of darkness and ended Thursday afternoon.
"Didn't really have a chance," he said.
Isner's right shoulder, the one that managed to pound a record 112 aces against Mahut, felt "kind of dead" and produced zero aces against de Bakker. Isner's neck was so stiff, he couldn't tilt his head back or turn it to the side. The skin was worn away on the little toe on his left foot, creating a painful blister.
"He just didn't have enough time to get his body right. ... He's one tired boy," said Isner's coach, Craig Boynton. "Your body's like, 'Hey, what are you doing to me here?'"
The American probably would not have won Friday, no matter who was on the other side of the net and no matter what time he was due on court.
That was clear from the very first game, which began at about 12:15 p.m.; Isner-Mahut ended at 4:48 p.m. on Thursday.
Friday's match began with Isner's serve getting broken -- something that did not happen over the last 84 games he served against Mahut. A pattern was established, and the first set was done in 16 minutes. At the ensuing changeover, Isner plopped down on court and -- while a ballkid stood nearby, providing shade with an umbrella -- received a neck massage from a trainer, which seemed to help somewhat.
"The first set, he didn't try at all," de Bakker said. "And then in the second set, he was trying a little bit better."
Against Mahut, Isner averaged 123 mph on first serves, reaching a high of 143 mph. Against de Bakker, his average was 115 mph, his fastest 130 mph, speeds that, for Isner, are tantamount to "lobbing it in," in Boynton's words.
"I wouldn't have bet a lot of money on him today," said Isner's mother, Karen, "but he did his best, and that's what it's about."
Boynton tried to offer encouragement from the stands, shouting, "Here we go, kid! Good spot here!" or "You can do it, Johnny!" But Isner's body language indicated otherwise. He winced after lengthy baseline exchanges, puffed his cheeks and exhaled after missed chances, slapped his right thigh with his racket after missing one service return and often paused to stretch his back or put his hands on his knees while sucking wind.
"It was brutal," Isner said. "I mean, I've never been this exhausted before."
Still, he never considered quitting against de Bakker.
Later Friday, though, Isner and partner Sam Querrey pulled out of their first-round doubles match, which originally was to be played Wednesday but was postponed twice.
As he prepared to leave the All England Club, Isner said he hadn't yet had a chance to really reflect on the impact his record-breaking first-round match would have down the road, on the court or off. His agent, Sam Duvall, has already spoken to potential new sponsors and, while not offering any details, added, "Suffice to say, we've been very busy."
De Bakker, meanwhile, reached Wimbledon's third round for the first time and was pleased to have a short day's work. He played the second-most games in this year's first round, 74, winning in a 16-14 fifth set.
"After my first match, I was pretty tired, as well," de Bakker said but then broke into a wide smile before adding: "But 16-14 is nothing anymore."
He considered himself "lucky" to be facing someone who endured 70-68. Plus, de Bakker's match ended Wednesday, allowing him much more recovery time than Isner. Because of the neck problem, which developed Thursday evening, Isner did not hit any balls Friday morning to prepare, instead spending time on a trainer's table for treatment.
"I don't want to go out, second round of a Slam. I'm in these tournaments to go deep and potentially win them," said Isner, who led Georgia to the 2007 NCAA tennis championship. "But this is a little bit different. If I went four sets in my first match and lost today, I'd be really disappointed."
Isner's next tournament, in Atlanta, doesn't begin until July 19, so he will enjoy some well-deserved time off.
First, he'll head home to Tampa, Fla., and then might visit family in Greensboro, N.C. Otherwise, he has no set plans -- perhaps some fishing, watching World Cup games on television, hanging out with buddies.
He does, however, know what he won't be doing at all for the next week or so: picking up a racket.
"I'll do whatever," Isner said. "Just anything away from the tennis court."