Wimbledon hopeful John Isner not shy in backing Trump
American in ‘very good spot’ ahead of semi-final encounter with Kevin Anderson
John Isner: Since 2010, Wimbledon has been a “house of horrors” for him. Photograph: Nic Bothma/EPA
The exchange with American John Isner last Monday, after his fourth-round win over Stefanos Tsitsipas went like this.
If you do make it through another round, reach the semi-finals on Friday, the US president is going to be in the country.
Isner: Oh, yeah?
Questioner: He’s a big tennis fan. Would you like to have him come and watch you? Would that be an honour for you?
Isner: Certainly. I’d love to have Trump come watch me. That would be awesome. Maybe I’ll tweet at him if I win on Wednesday. I know a lot of people won’t like that. But I don’t care.
Isner is in the semi-finals after his 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 6-3 win over Canada’s Milos Raonic in the quarter-finals and faces South Africa’s Kevin Anderson on Friday.
Trump, who knows if he will come or what reaction he might get. There will be no giant inflatable, nappy wrapped Trump over SW19.
Isner’s forthright reaction could not have been more different from the only other American player in the draw, Serena Williams, who was also asked about the US president.
“I feel like he has the right to do whatever he wants to do,” said Williams. “If he wants to come to a Wimbledon final, he has that right,” she said.
Isner has waited a long time to do something that will take focus away from his epic win over Nicolas Mahut in 2010. Wimbledon since then, he has said “has been a house of horrors for me”.
His first-round match in 2010 began at 6:13pm on a Tuesday on Court 18. At 9:07pm, due to fading light, play was suspended before the start of the fifth set. Resuming on Wednesday at 2:05pm, the record for longest match was broken at 5:45pm.
The light faded again and play was suspended at 9:09pm, with the final set tied at 59 games all. Play resumed at 3:40pm on Thursday with Isner winning at 4:47pm, the final set having lasted eight hours, 11 minutes.
In total, the match took 11 hours, five minutes over three days, with a final score of 6-4, 3-6, 6-7(7-9), 7-6(7-3), 70-68.
But he is right about Trump. People will dislike him for his enthusiastic endorsement. But at 33 years old and playing for 11 years he has had plenty of time to weigh up how he feels about his politics. It is not the first time Isner has dipped his toe and his views have led to controversy in the past.
At the 2016 US Open, he criticised San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. He described the kneeling protests during the national anthem as “pathetic”.
Isner also referenced Blaine Gabbert who was battling with Kaepernick for the starting quarterback job. “For him doing it in that way really irked me,” said Isner. “I’m a big Blaine Gabbert fan now.”
His father, Bob, an engineer and contractor ran for US Congress from North Carolina’s 13th district in 2016 but was defeated in the Democratic primary.
Politics are in his system and he understands opportunity. In his 41st Grand Slam event and with Roger Federer beaten, Isner is eyeing up his first Grand Slam final with only Anderson, runner-up at the US Open last year, in his path.
“I’m in a very, very good spot personally,” he said after beating Raonic. “My wife and I, we’re very happy. We’re expecting our first child in September, as well. So there’s a lot of very cool things going on right now, life-changing things.
“It certainly puts perspective on tennis. I think it takes a lot of pressure off of tennis. That’s one of the reasons I’ve been playing pretty well this year, I’m in a good spot. I wouldn’t change anything right now for where I am. It’s perfect.”
He has hit 161 aces so far, the tournament leader, with Anderson in third place on that ladder with 123 aces. Raonic, who Isner defeated, was in second place with 149 aces.
There is no mystery about what sort of match the semi-final will be with one of them guaranteed to be in the final against Novak Djokovic or Rafa Nadal. In that the tournament breathes a sigh of relief.
“This is amazing. It’s by far the best Grand Slam I’ve ever played in my career, and I’ve been playing for 11 years. I’m super happy,” added Isner.
“With how I’m feeling physically and mentally, I’m in a very good spot; I think I can keep doing damage here.”
As the president he would be pleased to see on Centre Court might say, Isner is now on a momentous swing, a very, very big swing. A tremendous swing. Bigly.