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03 September 2014

Isner: ‘Staying in World Group is extremely important’


Photo: Susan MullaneJohn Isner (USA)

There’s a reason USA is the most successful nation in Davis Cup by BNP Paribas history. Champions on 32 occasions and the record-holder for the most consecutive tie wins with 17 from 1968-1973, USA has also proved remarkably consistent in recent years with a 26-year stay in the elite World Group.

Not since 1988 has USA had to play in zonal competition, but the nation’s proud history is under threat in the upcoming World Group play-offs on 12-14 September.

Jim Courier’s men face a potential slippery encounter with Slovakia in Chicago in just over a week and John Isner, for one, knows how vital it is that his team avoid any hiccups in their bid to stay in the top tier of the competition.

“It’s extremely important,” said the 26-year-old Florida resident. “It’s disappointing that we’re not in the semifinals but right now these matches are just as important for the countries competing in this round. For us, we want to win to give us a fresh start in 2015, and the same thing for Slovakia.

“It’s going to be a tough match. But luckily we’re at home. It’s in our back yard.”

Isner has carried his nation’s Davis Cup hopes in recent years, none more so than in 2012 when he defeated the likes of Roger Federer, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gilles Simon to help USA reach the semifinals. And being his country’s leader in Davis Cup is a position he has been more than happy to fill.

“It’s been amazing. It’s something that I never imagined possible, ever. Now that I’ve done it for a bit, it’s very exciting. It’s such an honour,” said Isner, although the American admits he feels party to blame for USA’s position in the play-offs having missed the defeat to Great Britain in the World Group first round in February due to injury.

“It was very disappointing to miss the tie in San Diego,” he continued. “I kind of feel in a way a little bit responsible that we’re in this relegation match. I think I could have helped our team in San Diego but my ankle… I wasn’t fit to play back then.”

USA’s opponents in the upcoming play-offs certainly won’t be a pushover. World No. 65 Martin Klizan won his most recent encounter with Isner at this year’s Australian Open, while No. 84 Luckas Lacko is tied at one-apiece in his career head-to-head with the hosts’ No. 2 Sam Querrey.

The USA, however, have a trump card – in the form of Bob and Mike Bryan.

“They’re so reliable. So rock solid,” said Isner of the world No. 1 duo. “It’s a huge advantage for us. Those guys are the best doubles team of all time and to have them on our team is huge. They’ve won so many doubles points - with the match 1-1, with us down 0-2, with us up 2-0, they’ve done it so much. It’s a big advantage having them.”

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