Each week, Baseline will take a look at a player who has thrived at one of the stops on the ATP and WTA tours during their career.
For the better part of a decade, the stretch of tournaments between Wimbledon and the US Open has been John Isner’s time to shine, with his run usually starting at the Hall of Fame Open in Newport, RI, where he’s won four of his 15 career singles titles.
It wasn’t always a graceful glide across the grass courts for the American. Having turned pro in 2007, the former University of Georgia standout made his ATP main draw debut in Newport that year and was bounced out of the first round by the veteran Belgian Dick Norman. A few weeks after that, though, Isner reached his first career final in Washington, DC, to announce his arrival as a player to watch.
Making steady gains up the rankings from there, he returned to Rhode Island in 2008, but once again, fell in the first round, this time to Jesse Levine. Missing the tournament over the next couple of years, Isner came back in 2011 as a different player, having captured his first career title in 2010 and reaching three other finals. This time, the 6’10” American entered Newport as the top seed and advanced to the championship match, where he faced the 5’6” Belgian Olivier Rochus. In their only other meeting, in 2009 in the qualifying rounds in Miami, Isner won in straight sets. He repeated that feat here to claim his second career title and become the first top seed in tournament history to win.
Sitting atop the draw once again in 2012, Isner defended his title, defeating former world No. 1 and 2002 Wimbledon champion Lleyton Hewitt in straight sets.
As Isner attempted a three-peat in 2013, Hewitt turned the tables on him and stopped his charge in the semifinals. Earlier-than-expected losses at the hands of countrymen Jack Sock and Rajeev Ram followed over the next two years, and he skipped the 2016 tournament. Making his return to Newport in 2017, Isner captured his first title in two years, topping Matthew Ebden in the final. Throughout the course of the week, the American didn’t face a break point.
Having reached the semifinals at Wimbledon for the first time, where he dropped a marathon match against former college rival Kevin Anderson, Isner skipped Newport in 2018. Returning as the top seed once again in 2019, Isner battled went the distance in his first three matches, then topped the young Kazakh Alexander Bublik in straight sets in the final.
That latest win gave Isner the record for most singles titles at the tournament at four, breaking the mark he shared with Vijay Amritraj and Greg Rusedski. It also gave weight to the fact that the Hall of Fame Open is usually the kickoff to a solid summer season for the American.