Commentary

John Isner his own worst enemy

Updated: June 25, 2012, 9:35 PM ET
By Greg Garber | ESPN.com

WIMBLEDON, England -- And so, there will no Isner-Mahut III.

The 6-foot-9 American and the self-effacing Frenchman seemed destined to meet for the third consecutive year, but something happened on the way to another potential marathon match.

The No. 11-seeded John Isner lost to Colombian Alejandro Falla 6-4, 6-7 (7), 3-6, 7-6 (7), 7-5. In a more famous five-setter, Isner beat Nicolas Mahut 70-68 in the final frame of an epic match that covered three days and 11 hours, 5 minutes. And, of course, just a few weeks ago, Isner dropped a marathon match to Paul-Henri Mathieu 18-16 in the fifth set of their French Open duel.

Isner's last forehand, a bit too forceful, sailed long, and he was out at the All England Club, a venue where many predicted his power game would flourish.

[+] EnlargeJohn Isner
Clive Brunskill/Getty ImagesJohn Isner has now lost three consecutive five-set matches in Grand Slam play.

"I didn't put my opponent away," a disconsolate Isner said later. "I had my chances, and I didn't do it. It's all on me.

"It's just now I get out there sometimes, and lately it's happening quite a lot, and I get out there in the match and I'm just so clouded. I just can't seem to figure things out. I'm my own worst enemy out there. It's all mental for me, and it's pretty poor on my part."

Isner actually won one more point than Falla, but couldn't convert in the critical moments. The big guy had 31 aces, but Falla had just as many breaks of serve (two) and played better defense.

"I just can't get out of my own way," Isner said. "Just don't do the right things during the course of the match, what I need to do. I'm just getting too down on myself.

"There have certainly been better times than right now."

Meanwhile, 19-year-old Floridian Sloane Stephens is off on another run. After reaching the fourth round at Roland Garros, she is into the second round here at Wimbledon after defeating Karolina Pliskova.

The effervescent Stephens is the third-youngest player in the WTA's top 100. She now has an auspicious record in Grand Slams of -- well, let's ask her.

"Wait, I can do this," she said, counting out loud. "Seven and four. That's not too bad, really."

No, it's not. She has now won at least one match in the past four majors.

At the other end of the age spectrum is 34-year-old Michael Russell, who is the oldest qualifier for the Wimbledon men's draw in five years. After beating Adrian Menendez-Maceiras in straight sets, Russell knew where he stood.

"Five years ago, it was Wayne Arthurs, and he was 36," Russell said. "I'm No. 7 on the all-time list. I hope I don't have to qualify next year."

With the win, Russell should move back into the top 100, which would mean a direct entry into the majors. Although James Blake and Donald Young both lost their first-round matches, two of their American peers managed wins.

Twenty-year-old Ryan Harrison defeated Yen Hsun-Lu 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 and Ryan Sweeting went through when Potito Starace retired in the second set. The Italian is now a career 1-9 at Wimbledon.

On the women's side, Timea Babos beat Melanie Oudin 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 and Vania King lost to No. 23 seed Petra Cetkovska 6-4, 6-2.

Jamie Lee Hampton, a U.S. citizen born in Frankfurt, Germany, upset No. 27 seed Daniela Hantuchova 6-4, 7-6 (1). Despite dropping a first-set tiebreaker, Christina McHale is still alive in her first-round match. She came back to force a suspended match against British wild card Johanna Konta 6-7 (4), 6-2, 7-7.

Greg Garber

Writer, Reporter
Greg Garber joined ESPN in 1991 and provides reports for NFL Countdown and SportsCenter. He is also a regular contributor to Outside the Lines and a senior writer for ESPN.com.