SAN JOSE, CALIF. — He called his 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-2 Davis Cup upset of Roger Federer the biggest win of his life. And for good reason. After all, John Isner had just nullified the 16-time Slam champ on enemy turf, taking down the Swiss master on the clay of Fribourg, giving his American teammates some unexpected momentum en route to a 5-0 World Group shocker.
On Monday night at the SAP Open, where John McEnroe appeared in an exo showdown with Gael Monfils, Jack Sock and reigning NCAA champion Steve Johnson, the Hall of Famer called Isner’s achievement well deserved.
“Isner is a guy who, when the top four look at a draw, they go, ‘Where’s Isner? We don’t want any part of him.’ They believe they’ll beat him, but they’d prefer someone else to do it,” said McEnroe, who teamed with the 19-year-old Sock to top Monfils/Johnson 6-4, 6-4.
Does Isner — in this golden age of Federer, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray — have the stuff to compete for a Slam title?
“I think so. I really do,” said McEnroe, just days away from his 53rd birthday. “I believe he can get to a semi or a final, given the right set of circumstances. The problem with John is that he makes it a little more difficult for himself because he sort of wants to show that he can hit groundstrokes with these guys. I think he’d better off playing more like Pete Sampras, where he would unnerve these guys, not give them rhythm, drive these people absolutely bananas. Maybe he’ll do that.”
“He’s a great kid,” McEnroe continued. “He’s already at No. 14. I always thought he could get to the top 10. I don’t know if he can win something, but believe me, he’s THE most dangerous guy out there on the tour. I love the fact that he went and did what he did [in Switzerland] because he deserves it. And it says something: maybe someone can go to college and succeed.”