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Where Are They Now?
Harry Cicma Goes One-on-One with John Isner
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John Isner is many things, but included on the list is "poster boy for college tennis".

American tennis fans - and college fans in particular - have loved watching Isner's development since leading the University of Georgia to the NCAA title in 2007. He has made great strides in his game, and his rankings reflect that progress - since turning pro in 2007, Isner's year-end ranking has gone from 106 (2007) to 144 (2008) to 34 (2009).

Former UGa standout and ATP Pro John Isner
© Doug Wrege, TennisRecruiting.net
Isner currently stands at No. 19 on the ATP World Tour Ranking List, with hopes to climb higher in 2011.

Harry Cicma of NBC Sports recently chatted with Isner about college and pro tennis.

 

Questions and Answers

Harry Cicma (HC): I remember interviewing you as a top college player at Georgia, and now here you are - near the top in the world and rising.

John Isner (JI): I wouldn't have thought three years ago that I'd be in this position. During my senior year in college, I knew that I would play pro tennis, and I thought that Top-100 would have been a good accomplishment.

I started to see my game improve a lot from there. I am now into the Top 20, and there's no reason to stop there. I'm going to keep climbing, and my ultimate goal is the Top 10.

 

HC: One of the big reasons for your improvement has to be be Craig Boynton and Saddlebrook Academy, right?

JI: It's actually the only reason. Last March, I was ranked 150, and I wasn't playing well at all. I started working with Craig exclusively - I think my ranking has climbed steadily ever since.

I owe that all to Craig and Saddlebrook. It's really the perfect training ground for me. For example, today I worked out my legs, and it was brutal. Even though you're in the gym, the humidity and the heat - it really starts to get to you. But if I want to be in the top 10, I have to continue to get stronger and get fitter, and that's what Saddlebrook allows me to do.

When I first came out of college, I did did really well, I knew then that I could make a living at this game, and I had a nice first year in 2007. But then I regressed - I had a sophomore slump in 2008. I went back to the drawing board, started working harder on the practice courts, getting in more matches. Last year - my third year on tour - was a lot better than 2008.

I hope that these recent trends - the improvements in 2009 and 2011 - continue throughout the rest of my career.

 

Isner thinks all U.S. juniors should go to college
© Doug Wrege, TennisRecruiting.net
HC: You chose to go to college. What is it about college tennis that should be attractive to top players?

JI: Most tennis players ranked in the Top 150 did not go to college. However, I think for the Americans, to play college should be an easy choice - the default choice.

I think every American should go to college for at least one to two years. The only example of a player who has made it big without going to college is Sam Querry, but he's a different story.

For me I knew college tennis was the right choice. I didn't even have aspirations to go pro after high school - I just wanted to have a college scholarship. I went to University of Georgia, which is the greatest tennis school you can choose. My game improved so much there, and they gave me everything I needed to succeed as a professional, just like I now have here [at Saddlebrook].

College is also a luxury for guys like myself [as well as Amir Delic and James Blake] - the academic experience takes a little bit of the pressure off. We all knew starting out that if it doesn't work out on the tennis court, we can fall back on our college degrees. That is comforting - and it's something that 98% of the players on the tennis tour don't have.

 
 

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About Harry Cicma

When it comes to college tennis, Harry Cicma is your man. Cicma covers tennis and other athletic stories for NBC Sports, writing articles and producing video segments.

He is co-founder and host of World Tennis a weekly tennis show on NESN, and host of of Tennis Live Radio's College Corner.

Cicma competed as a junior in USTA/New England and went on to play college tennis at Rutgers University. As a professional, Cicma competed at the ATP Newport tournament and the San Jose Siebel Open. He reached a career-high #75 in the ATP doubles team rankings and #1262 in the ATP Entry System.

In media, Cicma has run the gamut. He has worked for NBC, CBS, ABC, ESPN, FOX Sports Net, the Tennis Channel, and World Team Tennis. Cicma has announced NCAA sports as well as the US Open Tennis Championships on both TV and radio.

 
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