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Posted: Sunday September 6, 2009 9:55AM; Updated: Sunday September 6, 2009 12:09PM
Andrew Lawrence Andrew Lawrence >
INSIDE TENNIS

Isner stays strong in Roddick upset

Story Highlights

John Isner didn't wilt in the big moments of his victory against Andy Roddick

Roddick expected much more after reaching the final at Wimbledon this summer

The news wasn't all good for Isner -- his beloved Georgia Bulldogs lost

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John Isner (above) staved off Andy Roddick's comeback with a strong fifth set.
AP
2009 U.S. Open
Day 15
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NEW YORK -- What we learned from John Isner's seismic upset over the longtime flag bearer of American tennis, Andy Roddick:

1. Big John can close. A reputation for wearing down late in matches has dogged Isner for much of his young career. A lot of the blame for that goes to Isner's subpar conditioning, which was completely eroded by a bout of mononucleosis that knocked the Greensboro, N.C., native out of commission for two months this year. But in Saturday's 7-6 (3), 6-3, 3-6, 5-7, 7-6 (5) victory against Roddick, a rejuvenated Isner proved he can indeed summon his best tennis down the stretch. For proof, look no further than his service game, which peaked during the fifth set. That's when he won his most first-serve points (88 percent), clocked his fastest first-serve average (126 mph) and smacked his quickest second serve (118 mph).

2. Roddick is taking little consolation from this loss. And he shouldn't. His strong showing at the French Open and slim loss in the Wimbledon final had many believing this could be the year that Roddick wins his second major. But this defeat to Isner undoes all of that momentum. One wonders if the former U.S. Open champ will ever get his Grand Slam mojo back, especially with the next major, the Australian Open, so far off on the calendar.

"There's not another chance a month and a half away," said Roddick, who, unsurprisingly, wasn't in much mood for philosophizing after the loss. "I apologize for not being uber-objective 25 minutes afterward. I haven't really mastered that yet."

3. Isner can adjust. In February, Roddick and Isner met in the semifinal of the Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington, D.C. Isner took the first set off Roddick, then watched him roar back for a 6-7 (3), 6-2, 7-5 win. "He had me on a string really," Isner remembered. This time around, however, Isner was able to return the favor -- thanks to a much stronger return game. "Even though I only broke serve once, I felt like I put pressure and made a lot more returns than I did in D.C.," Isner said. "[I] made a couple of adjustments on my return of serve and some certain parts of my game that helped out."

4. Isner and Roddick can still be friends. Ever since the two were teamed up on the 2007 Davis Cup team, the friendship between Roddick and Isner has evolved from mere mentorship to pseudo-bromance. Saturday's match, though, provided an interesting stress test for their relationship. Turns out, both men would walk off of Ashe with opposite feelings about themselves -- Isner triumphant and energized, Roddick disappointed and dejected -- but felt the same empathy for the other. For as happy as Roddick was to see his buddy breakthrough (still, he confessed to being "mad that obviously it came at my expense"), Isner was saddened to see his friend exit the draw so soon. "I don't like that he's out of the tournament," Isner said. "It kind of stinks that we played in the round of 32."

5. Georgia can't play football when Isner is playing tennis. A Georgia alum, Isner takes his Bulldogs football very seriously. "I use up a lot of energy watching football," he said. And when they went into halftime trailing Oklahoma State 10-7, he was about ready to blow his stack. "My coach had to sit me down and tell me to take it easy," he said. Isner managed to pry himself from the game and settle down in time for his match with Roddick, mostly keeping his cool through for all three hours and 51 minutes of it. After he beat Roddick, Isner was on Cloud 9 -- that is, until news of the Bulldogs' 24-10 loss reached him. "I didn't know till I walked off the court that [Georgia] lost," he said.

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