LONDON — At long last, John Isner is a Wimbledon quarterfinalist, finally making that far in his 10th appearance.
He’s also in the final eight at any Grand Slam tournament for the first time since 2011.
The No. 9-seeded Isner moved into a matchup against No. 13 Milos Raonic, the 2016 runner-up at the All England Club, by beating 19-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece 6-4, 7-6 (8), 7-6 (4) with the help of 22 aces and by saving the only break point he faced Monday.
It allows the 33-year-old Isner, the highest-ranked U.S. man, to have something about Wimbledon to relish other than his victory in the longest match in tennis history: 70-68 in the fifth set against Nicolas Mahut after 11 hours spread over three days in 2010.
He’d never even been past the third round at the grass-court Grand Slam until this year.
“Certainly this tournament, since that long match, has sort of been a house of horrors for me,” Isner said. “I’ve lost a lot of close ones since that match in 2010 – a lot of very, very close ones, a lot of deep five-set matches, third round especially.”
He had lost four five-setters in a row at Wimbledon until last week.
He’d been 0-3 in the third round until last week.
“There was certainly some doubt, when you have left this tournament the last nine, 10 years pretty disappointed with my result, gone home sort of hanging my head a little bit,” Isner said. “But not the case this year.”
His main asset is his booming serve, which he sees getting a boost because of the dry, hot weather that produces even bigger bounces than usual.
If he can pick up just the occasional service break, he’s tough to beat right now.
“It was a pretty weird match, to be honest. A lot of aces, short rallies. There was no play from the baseline at all. That was a bit annoying, because I was used to playing long rallies – play the point, construct the point,” said Tsitsipas, who was trying to become the first Greek man to reach a quarterfinal in Grand Slam history.
“But today it seemed like there was no plan when I was playing. It was just happening, like, randomly. He was serving very well and didn’t give me a lot of options to break.”
Could be similar on Wednesday between Isner and Canada’s Raonic, another top server who beat 103rd-ranked Mackenzie McDonald of the U.S. 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-2.
Asked how he’d describe Isner’s serve, Raonic said: “Incredible.”
Raonic’s isn’t too shabby, either. He hit 37 aces and never faced a break point against McDonald, who won the NCAA singles and doubles titles for UCLA in 2016.
“The key is going to come down to one, two, three points, here and there. That’s pretty much it. I don’t think we’re going to have many consecutive opportunities on each other’s serves. It’s going to be coming down to those moments (and) being sharp in the right moments, who is going to be able to step up, be the one that’s able to dictate, putting more pressure on the other guy,” Raonic said. “I think it’s going to be decided by small margins.”