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Hockey fan John Isner ready for New York Open at part-time home of 'surprising' Islanders

John Isner speaks to the media during Day

John Isner speaks to the media during Day 1 session before his doubles match with Brendaln Evans at the NY Open Tennis Tournament at the NYCB Live Nassau Coliseum on Monday, Feb. 11, 2019. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Although John Isner will be concentrating on winning his first match of the 2019 season at the New York Open, expect that he will be focusing during his down time on his favorite fantasy sport — hockey.

He’s got Islander Josh Bailey on his team, but no Rangers. He took defenseman Neal Pionk at the start of the season but dropped him when he got injured.

“The Islanders are surprising,” Isner said on Monday. “I follow the NHL religiously. I know [the Islanders’] Valtteri Filppula from our days in Tampa. I think Barry Trotz should be coach of the year.”  

Isner has played two matches at the start of this season, losing in two sets to fellow American Taylor Fritz in the first round in Auckland and to another American, Reilly Opelka, in four sets at the Australian Open. All six sets were decided in tiebreaks. His first match at the Open  at NYCB Live's Nassau Coliseum is Wednesday.

He didn’t start off well last year, losing in the first round at the Australian Open then the first round of the inaugural New York Open. But he went on to have a stellar season, winning a top-tier event at Miami over Alexander Zverev, losing in the  Wimbledon semifinals to Kevin Anderson, 26-24, in the fifth set (6 hours and 36 minutes), winning the Atlanta tournament and losing in the U.S. Open quarterfinals. Earning big points, he ascended to No. 9 in the world and he’s the No. 1 seed in the New York Open.

“In my opinion I only had four good tournaments, but that’s sometimes what it takes,” Isner said. “I would like to be more consistent this year.”

He’s one of the older players in the game, and turns 34 in April. But age seems to be only a number among the tennis elite these days.

“I still physically feel great, healthy, really as healthy as I’ve ever been,” he said. “That’s a testament to working hard off the court and doing all the right things off the court. How I feel physically, I feel this year could be another good year.”

“I’ve always played my best in the states, “ he said. “Unfortunately three or four years in a row I’ve started off the year pretty poorly in Australia. Can’t put my finger on why, but I ended the year pretty well. I’m eager to get back on the court."

And he really wants to get on the charcoal gray courts at the Coliseum. “The facilities here are absolutely amazing,” Isner said. “The court is very fair. A beautifully laid down court. Some [of these courts]are a little bumpy but it’s a fantastically laid down court.”

There’s some snow in the forecast, and that’s quite OK with Isner, a Dallas resident and year-long sun chaser as a pro tennis player.

“Everyone loves coming to New York,” he said. “Of course it’s a little bit different. We’re not in the city, we’re in beautiful Long Island. I actually quite like this weather as well and I hear it’s going to snow tomorrow. That will be a pretty cool deal, really refreshing.”


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