John Isner pumping his fist in his first round match...

John Isner pumping his fist in his first round match with Frederico Gil at the U.S. Open. (Sept. 1, 2010) Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

After that phantasmagoric 70-68 Wimbledon fifth set, everything is a postscript for John Isner.

He was on court for one hour and 47 minutes in his first-round U.S. Open match Wednesday evening, which is more than nine hours shorter than that three-day, first-round Wimbledon slog against Frenchman Nicolas Mahut a couple of months ago.

Of course, the first question for Isner here, after he had beaten Portugal's Frederico Gil in straight sets, was a Wimbledon comparison. Isner, who faces Marco Chiudinelli in a second-round match Friday, handled that with a smile and the agreement that, "For my second-round match, I should be a little bit fresher than I was at Wimbledon."

But for a while during the run-up to the Open, the 6-9 Isner - the pro tour's new 25-year-old Tower of Power from North Carolina - became fed up with the inevitable references to having played the longest match in tennis history. "Earlier in the summer," he admitted, "when, physically, I wasn't feeling well, and I was answering questions about it every day, it kind of maybe got a little bit annoying.

"But now it's fine. I know I'm going to have to answer questions about it - for maybe as long as I live. But, you know, I'm just happy to be a part of that match. My name will be in the record books forever. That's not going to get broken. Nobody will beat it. It's just not gonna happen."

He repeatedly has said he wants "to move on," and he spoke Wednesday of "feeling I know I belong" among the world's top 20 players, where he has been ranked for just more than two months. "I mean, what keeps me going," Isner said, "is that I don't want to fall behind. I want to, at worst, stay where I am and keep climbing."

He took a week off after Wimbledon, returned to action at the Atlanta tournament in late July, "but then I went to play D.C. and it all hit me," he said. "Either it was that first match in D.C., kind of everything, a lot of interviews and whatnot, it just all hit me. I ran out of gas in D.C."

He pulled out of the Toronto tournament, went home to North Carolina, "turned off my phone for four days, got spoiled by my mom." When he returned for the Open tuneup event in Cincinnati two weeks ago, he felt refreshed - only to sustain a badly twisted ankle that rendered him "pretty much horizontal for more than a week" and in danger of missing the Open.

Only days ago was he given medical clearance to play here, and when he arrived at the National Tennis Center Monday morning, "as soon as I stepped in the locker room, was the first person I saw. It was the first time I'd seen him in person since Wimbledon. We did the handshake, high-five thing, sat and talked. And ever since then, I keep running into him in the locker room. And we talk.

"We're definitely good friends."

In July, Isner was given an ESPY award for the "best record-breaking performance."

P.S. He invited Mahut (though he couldn't fit the appearance into his schedule).

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