Isner beats Raonic, reaches U.S. Open quarters

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NEW YORK — John Isner — with all his finger-twirling, fist-pumping histrionics stirring the crowd — had just clinched his first U.S. Open quarterfinal berth since 2011 when his thoughts flashed to someone who wasn’t at the stadium to celebrate: his wife, Maddie.

She was home, expecting the couple’s first child.

Isner hoped he had another big delivery up first — a U.S. Open championship.

“Why not me?” Isner asked.

With his booming serve leading the way, why not indeed?

Isner, seeded 11th, slipped past Milos Raonic for the second time this season in a Grand Slam, using a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 victory on Sunday night to reach the U.S. Open quarterfinals.

Isner needed four sets to defeat Raonic at Wimbledon on the way to the semifinals, his best showing at a major. The 33-year-old Isner is playing the best tennis of his career. He won the Miami Open and the Atlanta Open and was the highest-seeded American man at the U.S. Open for the seventh straight year.

Isner improved to 5-1 lifetime against the 25th-seeded Raonic. Raonic, the last Canadian left in the singles draw, needed treatment on his back after the fourth set. The 2016 Wimbledon runner-up failed to break Isner’s serve in the three sets he lost — none, surprisingly, going to a tiebreaker between the big servers.

Isner is known for his marathon matches and he played another long one in Louis Armstrong Stadium, hitting 3 hours, 8 minutes. It must have seemed like a warmup compared to his 6 1/2-hour (including a 26-24 fifth set) loss to Kevin Anderson at Wimbledon. He would have played as long as needed to equal his best result in the U.S. Open.

Back on his home turf, Isner was a fan favorite in New York.

Isner had the crowd behind him on every point and the 6-foot-11 American pumped his fist on every winner. With Citi Field signage peeking through one side of Louis Armstrong, Isner proved the biggest power hitter at Flushing Meadows this year. The crowd erupted when he nailed a 141 mph ace to clinch the third set, and his 20 aces boosted his tournament-high total to 112.

But it was a pretty drop shot in the second that led to a Michael Jordan-esque shrug that might have been his best of the night.

“The crowd just kept me in it,” Isner said. “This atmosphere is like a jungle. It was amazing.”