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26 March 2013

Isner relishing Serbia test


Photo: Susan MullaneJohn Isner (USA)

Far from daunted by the challenge of facing a team anchored by world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, John Isner says he can’t wait for USA’s Davis Cup by BNP Paribas quarterfinal meeting with Serbia on 5-7 April.

While the 27-year-old Florida resident admits that negotiating the 2010 champions will be anything but straightforward, the second Davis Cup meeting between the two nations is something that he is eagerly anticipating.

“It’s going to be very exciting,” said Isner. “[Playing Serbia] is going to be a huge challenge. The guy that anchors their team is the best player in the world so we’re certainly going to have our hands full but it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Isner has featured in seven Davis Cup ties for USA since making his debut, incidentally against Serbia, in 2010, but he only played his first home tie during USA’s 3-2 first round victory over Brazil in Jacksonville this February. Immediately handed another chance to compete in front of a home crowd, Isner's USA travel to the Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho for their quarterfinal tie.

“I’ve never been there before but I hear it’s great,” he said. “I hope Boise comes out and packs the house. I’ve been playing Davis Cup for quite a while and this is only my second home tie so it’s a good one to look forward to.”

The star of USA’s run to the semifinals in 2012 after defeating the likes of Roger Federer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga away on clay, Isner is looking to deliver another big performance for his country after the disappointment of a five-set loss to Thomaz Bellucci in the first round in Jacksonville.

The 6’9” American has given Djokovic plenty to think about in the past, taking the world No. 1 to five sets in the Davis Cup first round in 2010 and winning their last tour meeting in the semifinals at Indian Wells in 2012. Isner is confident of another big display, particularly with US captain Jim Courier in his corner.

“He’s an unbelievable captain,” said Isner. “I’ve played some of my best tennis with him there on the court with me, there’s no doubt about that.

“When he speaks you listen. He’s won three or four Grand Slams, he was No. 1 in the world. He was an unbelievable player and he knows what he’s talking about, it’s as simple as that. He knows a lot more than me, so I’m going to listen [to his advice].”

Whatever happens in Boise, Isner will relish another opportunity to compete for his country in a competition he is very fond of.

“For me it’s so, so special,” he said. “Growing up, I remember watching our Davis Cup team play. I actually didn’t really believe that I could ever be a part of our Davis Cup team. It’s such an honour. You’re playing for a lot more than yourself. You’re playing for your teammates. You’re playing for your country.

“I’ve always considered myself a team guy. That’s why I went to college for four years and grew up playing team sports in North Carolina. This is the ultimate team sport as far as tennis goes. It’s a lot of fun and it’s such an honour. I really hope to be on this team for a while.”

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