Big-serving John Isner keeps positive attitude, reaches Miami Open quarterfinals

John Isner returns to Marin Cilic, of Croatia, during the Miami Open tennis tournament, Tues., March 27, 2018, in Key Biscayne, Fla. Isner won 7-6 (0), 6-3.
John Isner returns to Marin Cilic, of Croatia, during the Miami Open tennis tournament, Tues., March 27, 2018, in Key Biscayne, Fla. Isner won 7-6 (0), 6-3. AP

One of the lessons that John Isner admits has taken the most time to learn in his career is the benefit of keeping a positive perspective no matter how a match is going.

Fortunately for Isner, he had no need to be concerned about his attitude at the Miami Open on Tuesday. Despite the closeness of his fourth-round encounter with second-seeded Marin Cilic of Croatia, the American played well to prevail 7-6 (7-0), 6-3.

“I want to walk off the court, win or lose, being happy with how I was composed on the court,” Isner said. “There have been some times where I’ve gotten too frustrated on the court, and that cost me the match. When you walk off the court as a loser in a situation like that, it’s not a good feeling, so I’m trying to eliminate that.”

Isner’s game has always hung on his serve and against Cilic, also a notable power-serving player, it was definitely the shot that delivered the win. He knocked down 12 aces, didn’t double-fault, recorded a stunning 73 percent first-serve percentage and never offered Cilic a break-point opportunity.

“I was in a very good serving rhythm today,” Isner said. “I felt that really from my opening serve, the whole match that I knew it was going to be a good serving day.

“When I serve like that, I’m certainly tough to beat.”

The winner of 12 career titles, Isner’s reputation is always tied to his winning the longest match in recorded tennis history. He won that 2010 Wimbledon first-round encounter, that spanned 11 hours, five minutes over three days, 70-68 in the fifth set over Frenchman Nicolas Mahut.

A new element in the 32-year-old Isner’s life this season is he’s now a married man. He wed longtime girlfriend, Madison McKinley, a jewelry designer, in early December, and moved from the west coast of Florida to her hometown of Dallas.

“We’re so comfortable with each other and very happy,” said Isner, instinctively looking down at his wedding band. “I’m just happy I can actually play in my wedding ring. I know a lot of players can’t because it bothers them. Doesn’t bother me at all, so I don’t even feel it. I think that’s pretty cool.

“She works,” he added. “She’s not here. She travels sometimes, but most of the time — I would say 30, 40 percent of the time she’s with me, but more times than not she’s away, which I think is healthy.”

It’s not been all about tennis for Isner during this trip to Miami. On Saturday, his day off from playing, he came over to the tournament site to pay tribute to the 17 people killed at Stoneman Douglas high school last month and met with players from the schools’ tennis teams.

“What those kids are doing right now is pretty impressive, and they are turning a horrible tragedy into something pretty positive, it seems,” Isner said. “It was great to meet them. I know they got to meet a lot of players, as well.”

Isner is hoping to secure a second career Miami Open semifinal berth — he reached that round in 2015. He’ll have a tough quarterfinal opponent in 19th-ranked Hyeon Chung, one of the most effective players of the year, but will go on court with a 2-1 advantage in their previous meetings.

Chung, who defeated Joao Sousa of Portugal 6-4, 6-3, has reached at least the quarterfinals in six of the seven tournaments he has played this season, including a semifinal showing at the Australian Open.

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