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July 17, 2014

John Isner

Jeff Newman

TIM CURRY:テつ Thanks, everyone.テつ Thanks, John for your time today.テつ John's preparing for a busy next couple of weeks.テつ If Derek Jeter's Mr.November and Reggie Jackson's Mr.October, John's vying for Mr.July, August, and September, having entered every US Open Series event on the schedule this year, followed by the US Open, and this year has an additional stop in September the week after the Open for the Davis Cup World Group playoff versus Slovakia.
Want to thank the Citi Open for allowing us to expand the conference call they had scheduled with him to discuss all three topics with John.テつ We also have Jeff Newman, Tournament Director of the Citi Open on the call with us today to open with some comments or information about the Citi Open, and then we'll open the call for questions for John and Jeff about any of the events this summer.
JEFF NEWMAN:テつ Thanks.テつ Real quick, the Citi Open will be held July 26 to August 3rd at the Fitzgerald Tennis Center in Washington, D.C.テつ It's the 46th year as a tournament in D.C., and it's been a springboard for many young talents that have climbed the rankings over the years, and John's a perfect example of that, currently now the top-ranked American.
This is his 7th appearance at the Citi Open, the first of which was in 2007 when he received a wildcard into the event and made it all the way to the Finals against Andy Roddick.テつ So it's great to have John on the phone and appreciate him taking the time.テつ Of course the Citi Open is also part of the prestigious Emirates Airline US Open Series, which as we all know the summer tennis season, that links eight North American hard court tournaments to the Grand Slam at the US Open, and furthermore, the Citi Open is only one of 11 elite ATP World Tour 500 events making it one of the top 20 events in the world.
So appreciate everybody being on the call and John as well, and I'll turn it back to you, Tim.
TIM CURRY:テつ While we're getting everybody in cue, I just want to reference that John has finished in the top three in the Emirates Airlines US Open Series standings in the past three years, and again is at this point the only player entered in all five men's events this year, and the Series will start next week with the BB&T Open in Atlanta.テつ We'll take one more second, and then jump into the Q & A portion.

Q.テつ If you don't mind me sort of jumping into this summer and a bit ahead, what do you think have been the major themes in men's tennis after three majors this year and heading into the US Open?
JOHN ISNER:テつ Um, well, I guess after we saw in Australia, we saw someone outside of the big four win the slam, but after that it was sort of a return to normalcy, I guess you could say, with the big players really dominating the big events and that goes for French Open when Rafa and Novak played in the final, and same goes for Wimbledon when Novak and Roger played in the final.
But I think we've seen a little bit in the last few years, I guess, with some players are showing more belief against these guys and giving these guys tougher matches and even beating them on some certain occasions.

Q.テつ I'm kind of hearing ‑‑ is the field getting closer to the big four or is that bunk?テつ I'm hearing both things.
JOHN ISNER:テつ No, I was, you know, obviously no one has broken into that big four or maybe big three now.テつ Andy dropped off a little bit.テつ No one's kind of gotten ahead of them or close to them in the rankings, but I feel like, I don't know, I just think the general consensus is that these guys dominated for so long and everyone is so hungry, so everyone sort of believes that they go out and take the court against these guys ad these guys are beatable, and they are.テつ It's an extremely tough task though.

Q. テつWho besides yourself among U.S. men do you think has the best chance to make the second week in New York and why?
JOHN ISNER:テつ Well, honestly I think a lot of players, a handful of players can.テつ I think Sam Querrey can.テつ I think you have a guy like Jack Sock can, maybe a player like Steve Johnson can.テつ It's an advantage for us playing at home.テつ We're going to have the crowd on our side and most American players generally play better on hard court as the surface we've played the most on growing up, whereas Europeans and South Americans they always play on the dirt.テつ We're pretty much comfortable on hard court, and as I've said before, having the crowd on your side helps a lot.
I expect a handful of or a lot of American players to play well this summer and carry that momentum into the US Open.

Q.テつ Does the Citi Open seem stronger to you this year than maybe it has in years past?テつ It's got quite a bit of top 20 players in there.テつ Is that more exciting for you as a player?
JOHN ISNER:テつ Yeah, well, it doesn't seem stronger; it is stronger.テつ You know, it's missing a guy like Del Potro who has played this tournament in the past quite a few times.テつ Obviously, he's hurt, so it could have been even stronger than it is now.テつ But even without him I think the field is stronger than it was last year.テつ There are a lot of, lot of good players.テつ This is one of the toughest 500 tournaments in the world, no doubt about that.

Q.テつ Does that make it more exciting for you?
JOHN ISNER:テつ Yeah, it does, actually.テつ I think it's more exciting for me.テつ I always want to go up against‑‑ me personally I want to go up against guys that are ranked higher than me because that's normally a good thing.テつ That means I'm progressing well within that tournament.テつ But it's good for the tournament.テつ It's good for everyone.テつ It's going to be a high level of competition, and it's a crucial stop, really.テつ I think it's the big reason why we're seeing some very, very tough European players coming over across the pond pretty early to compete in Washington.

Q.テつ Most players aren't playing of the top players world five.テつ What goes into your thinking during the summer to play the whole hard court season?
JOHN ISNER:テつ Well, I mean, I think you guys know in the past I've generally played fair on hard courts, especially hard courts in the United States.テつ It's been a stretch of the season where in the past I've done extremely well, and it's sort of helped my season out quite a bit.テつ I know I did extremely well last year and things happened that I wasn't able to compete Winston‑Salem.テつ Obviously, the main goal is you want to play a lot of matches, you want to win a lot of matches, but you want to be 100% ready for the big one in New York, obviously, the US Open.
So for me I'm taking it a tournament at a time.テつ I feel healthy.テつ I feel strong.テつ I don't feel tired by any means.テつ I'm going to go out and try my best.テつ Another good part of it, I'll be seeded in most of these tournaments, so that could help me out a little bit, maybe not playing as many matches hopefully.テつ So I'm going to manage my schedule and we'll see how it goes.

Q.テつ Talk about, obviously, I would think at the Davis Cup level you've encountered Stefan Kozlov and Noah Rubin who have been practice partners and stuff.テつ Obviously, they've both had a great Wimbledon Junior thing.テつ If you have encountered them a little bit, your thoughts about their game?
JOHN ISNER:テつ I actually haven't.テつ I know Noah was in San Diego, but I was never able to get on the court in San Diego even for practice.テつ I don't know too much about their games.テつ But I do know that those players are very, very good.テつ It looks like they're going to do good things in the future.

Q.テつ It seems like Noah has made the decision after saying he wasn't going to go to college now to go to college.テつ As somebody who did take that path, does that seem like a smart thing to do in today's game?
JOHN ISNER:テつ Yeah, I mean, I think it's a very smart thing to do.テつ I guess maybe a little bit of him realizes that especially on the male side right now there is really no hurry to go pro at 17 or 18 years old with the landscape that has changed quite a bit with guys over 25 doing extremely well on the tour.テつ So it's good for him to, I think, see that and realize that he can develop a year in college or a year at minimum in college and then maybe go pro from there.テつ He's got a lot of time.テつ He's super young.テつ I think it's a smart call.

Q.テつ You touched on this.テつ You have done so well in the States in the summer hard court and especially last year and the run you had in Cincinnati.テつ As you approach this year, do you feel like you're ready to take that next step in a couple of the bigger ones, the Masters 1000 event or is there some element of you that thinks, wow, I've got an awful lot of points to defend now coming back?
JOHN ISNER:テつ Oh, no, I'm not thinking about the points at all.テつ You're looking to take that mentality into any stretch of the year.テつ You've got to just look at your season, I guess, year to date.テつ Actually, I think I put myself, I feel like, in the past few years I've had pretty decent starts of the year but not great.テつ I sort of saved my seasons by doing extremely, extremely well in the summer.テつ I feel like, I don't know exactly, but I feel like I'm in a little better position than I have been in the past, so look at it that way, and I can kind of take a little bit of pressure off me.
As far as taking the next step, we'll see.テつ I just know in tournaments like in Toronto or a Cincinnati, everyone's playing the event.テつ So even to get to the Finals of the tournaments, you have to beat a load of top 20 players.テつ I think in Cincinnati I might have beaten four top 10 players in a row or something like that, so it's very tough.テつ At the same time, it's something I know I can do.テつ I've done it in the past, and if there are tournaments for me to do some serious damage in, it's tournaments that are in North America and on hard courts, which I really like.

Q.テつ I know you've talked in the past about the comforts of home.テつ Is there anything more to it to explain your success state side or is it as simple as that?
JOHN ISNER:テつ I think it really is just as simple as that.テつ I feel like this year I have done a little better overseas.テつ I made it to the second week of the French Open, and I've never done that.テつ But it's nothing‑‑ I guess more than that, it's on a surface which I like.テつ I prefer the hard courts.テつ If it's on a surface I'm going to choose, it's going to be a hard court.テつ A lot of the times I'm playing in front of crowds that are cheering me on pretty vocally.テつ I kind of feel like I have two hometown tournaments.テつ I play one in Atlanta, and I've played in one from Salem before, which is actually my hometown.
It's just a good spot for me to be in and really to keep me stay healthy and be healthy and be very smart and take care of myself as best I can so I can get out there and compete.

Q.テつ Just want to switch gears and talk Davis Cup.テつ You mentioned there about how important it is for you to play at home and to feed off the support you get from the American crowd.テつ Tickets went on sale, how important is it that a decent crowd comes out in Chicago to get behind you and the boys in the World Group playoff event against Slovenia in September?
JOHN ISNER:テつ Yeah, against Slovakia.テつ I think it will be very important.テつ In my past home matches that I've played in, we've had great crowds, and for me, I think this is my second match where it's, I guess, you call it a relegation match or whatever.テつ If we win, we move up; if we lose, we move down to a group that we don't want be to be in, so it is very important.
I hope the city of Chicago comes out and supports us.テつ It's a hugely important week for me because, you know, maybe I kind of take a little bit of responsibility for us being in this position because I was hurt during our first round Davis Cup tie during Great Britain and wasn't able to go out there and help my team and help all that.テつ So for me personally, it's a huge week for our team.テつ We've got to get back into the World Group and start fresh next year.

Q.テつ How important, how much of a blow would it be if the worst‑case scenario happens and you guys drop out of the World Group?テつ Would that be a huge blow for American men's tennis?
JOHN ISNER:テつ Yeah, I think it would be.テつ I don't know the last time‑‑ I'm not the greatest historian, but I don't know the last time when our Davis Cup team has dropped below this stage, so it would be a big blow to us.テつ It would be a big blow to our Davis Cup team, for sure, because we're a country that has won this event so many times.テつ It's so important.テつ We win this one, we're back in the World Group and we're starting fresh in 2015.

Q.テつ Your schedule sounds very ambitious.テつ Do you expect to stick to that?テつ Why have you lined up so many events at a time of year when a lot of players are backing off or the hard courts, the heat, I know it's a good time for you and you've always done well, but that seems like a lot.
JOHN ISNER:テつ Well, first of all, I feel fresh.テつ I haven't played as much as I have in the past.テつ I came home after the French Open and I've had some time since Wimbledon.テつ I think last year I was entered in every event as well.テつ I did extremely well, but I got a little bit nicked up in Cincinnati and then I wasn't able to compete in Winston‑Salem.
Things could happen along the way, but as of right now I plan to enter into every event.テつ If there is a case where certainly I'm not playing so well, then I do want to play as many tournaments as I can, and get some matches in before the US Open. テつBut I'm going to see how the summer plays out and just make some decisions from there, but as of right now my focus is on Atlanta, which starts next week.

Q.テつ Do you have any idea who you think will be on the U.S. Davis Cup team come September or is it too early to say?
JOHN ISNER:テつ That's hard to say.テつ I would assume myself, I hope so, and I would assume the Bryan brothers.テつ I think you can count on us three, barring injury, I guess.テつ But after that, it could be ‑‑ the other singles spot, it could be up for grabs.

Q.テつ I'm going to stay on the Davis Cup theme.テつ I just wanted to know where you are in your career right now?テつ You talked about being a leader and feeling a little bit of responsibility about San Diego and not playing.テつ What does it mean for you right now to be a leader on this particular team?
JOHN ISNER:テつ Yeah, I mean, on this particular team I probably wouldn't call myself the main leader.テつ I would concede that to the Bryan brothers and our captain, Courier.テつ First of all, Jim played so many times for Davis Cup.テつ He's won Davis Cups and now he's our captain, so we look to him a lot.
Apart from that, I probably am the most experienced Davis Cup player we have.テつ It's a huge honor for me to be able to compete in Davis Cup.テつ I know that really I've played, in particular, I've played two ties in 2012 that was the best I've ever played.テつ So it's a style of tennis, and the team atmosphere I think brings out the best in me.テつ It's something that as long as I'm willing and able to go, I'm always going to play.
Unfortunately, I wasn't able to play in San Diego at that beautiful venue we had.テつ But I think myself and our team, we have a chance to make amends for that in Chicago against Slovakia, and we're going to do our best to do that and get back to World Group.

Q.テつ You mentioned Chicago.テつ Do you have a special affinity for the city?テつ Are there places that you like just because it is such a major market for a Davis Cup tie?
JOHN ISNER:テつ It is, yeah.テつ Actually, I haven't spent too much time in Chicago before.テつ I was there in college.テつ We played a college tournament there, and I actually don't remember too much about it.テつ Me, personally, I'd love to get out and watch a baseball game if possible.テつ Maybe the White Sox and Cubs could be in a battle for a playoff game.テつ That's just stuff I like to do personally.テつ But I know it's an amazing city.テつ It's one of the biggest cities we have and it's going to be a lot of fun.

Q.テつ Just a quick segue since you talked about taking it to a baseball game.テつ I just want to ask you, first, you threw a great first pitch at Fenway Park.テつ Is that something you'd like to imitate at cities like Baltimore and Washington during Citi Open or Cincinnati or something like that?
JOHN ISNER:テつ Well, I know that every stop‑‑ pretty much every stop I'm in, Atlanta, D.C., Toronto, and Cincinnati has a baseball team, so if for some reason I get the opportunity to do something like that again, I would, of course, do it.テつ It's an amazing experience, and I love baseball.テつ If I have time, I'm not going to put baseball ahead of everything else, but if there is time, I'm going to try to go to some games in these cities.

Q.テつ We talked to Newport a little over a week ago about how so many of the fans expect you to win some of these 250s year‑in and year‑out like Newport, like Atlanta and the way that you deal with that.テつ When you jump up to a tournament like Citi Open, does that maybe ease the pressure in your mind so you can go out and compete against the world ranked players?
JOHN ISNER:テつ No, I think either way.テつ We did talk about that.テつ Some of the fans when I go out on the court, maybe you get someone lesser ranked than myself and kind of expect me to win.テつ But as we know in the past, I'm not the type of guy that's going to win many matches 6‑1, 6‑1 or 6‑1, 6‑2, so I guess there is a bit of pressure on me that way.
But I think the Citi Open field will be I guess a little deeper than, per se, Atlanta.テつ Atlanta is very tough, but the draw in D.C. is a lot bigger.テつ Obviously, you have Toronto and Cincinnati, so these are all great opportunities for me, and every match is going to be extremely tough.テつ But really no matter who I'm playing, I know that there is a chance I could go down.テつ But I also know that no one really wants to play me, and I can beat anyone in the world.
Normally, in the past, when I am playing someone that's ranked ahead of me, I tend to play my best and I can give those guys a scare.
TIM CURRY:テつ Little bit of good news, the White Sox are home every day of Davis Cup week in Chicago, so we should work out something there, if you want.テつ Also of reference, the U.S. has the longest consecutive streak in the Davis Cup World Group.テつ We've been in the Davis Cup World Group for 25 straight years.テつ The only year we weren't in the current World Group was 1988, I believe.テつ We've won our last five World Group playoff matches, so hopefully form will continue in Chicago, but it's been a while since we've not been in the World Group.

Q.テつ I was wondering if Washington, D.C. may be more of a special stop for you since it's one of your first pro tournaments out of college?
JOHN ISNER:テつ Yeah, it actually is.テつ It's definitely one of the most special for me, for sure.テつ I was lucky enough to I really got a last‑minute wildcard in 2007.テつ I remember correctly Fernando Gonzalez pulled out or something and I was able to get a wildcard.テつ I was extremely lucky.テつ I remember entering that tournament and I had just won my first Challenger, so I was fresh out of college.テつ I had absolutely nothing to lose, and that's how I played that week, and I made the finals.テつ It helped me out so much.テつ I sort of made a name for myself, and got my ranking up there pretty high really quickly.
So for me Washington has always been a special place.テつ I've always played extremely well there, but I've never won it.テつ I know I've made two finals and two other semifinals, so I've always played well there but haven't quite finished it off.テつ So hopefully this year will be different.

Q.テつ I want to know, you're very close to Juan Monaco, if you haven't talked to him recently because he is not having the best results in the last couple of months?テつ Do you have any communication with him?
JOHN ISNER:テつ I do.テつ I actually speak to him.テつ He's one of my good friends on tour.テつ We actually don't talk about tennis too much though.テつ It's more he's sort of taken a liking to American football and I was sort of cheering on Argentina for him when the USA was out of the World Cup, so we keep in touch that way.テつ I know he's in Europe right now, and I'll probably see him in Toronto.テつ But actually I don't talk about tennis too much with him.
I guess he isn't having his best results, but I know from personal experience that he's one of the hardest workers around, so there is a good chance he'll be able to turn it around pretty soon.

Q.テつ You are going to play many consecutive weeks.テつ Do you have a special fitness preparation?
JOHN ISNER:テつ No, it's nothing special.テつ Really, whether I'm always‑‑ I feel like I consider myself a pretty hard worker, and I always put in my work every day when I'm home in Florida.テつ I'm doing the same now.テつ I'm not doing anything extra crazy to try to get in better shape.テつ I don't feel like I need to get in better shape.テつ For me, it's just doing what I've always done and taking care of myself is really important, eating well, sleeping a lot, and making sure I'm fresh when I go out on the court to play a match, so it's nothing too special.テつ I've spent a lot of time on the court, a lot of time in the gym, and so forth and so on.

Q.テつ John, back to Davis Cup, there seem to be so many mixed emotions about Davis Cup.テつ Most players will say it was the biggest honor of their career to play for their country and Davis Cup, and then there is the thought we have to fix it. テつI'm just curious if you think it needs to be fixed?テつ And can it survive if it didn't have that home and away element, which is what seems to make it so exciting when you're at it?
JOHN ISNER:テつ Yeah, I don't really know.テつ I know scheduling‑wise it can be sort of an issue for some players.テつ Myself in 2012, I went over to Europe seven different times in 2012, we played three Davis Cup ties and we had the Olympics that year.テつ So I remember when I finished 2012, though I played extremely well, I was exhausted.テつ That's just a lot of traveling.
So sometimes Davis Cup can sort of work in your favor, you can get a couple home matches in a row, and sometimes it doesn't work in your favor where you're playing a lot of road matches.テつ So for me, every time I've suited up and played Davis Cup, whether it's been home or away, it's been an absolutely amazing experience.テつ It's something unlike any other tournament we play in, because you either have the crowd really, really on your side or the crowd really, really against you, but either way it makes for a great atmosphere, and every player who has ever played a Davis Cup I would say the same thing.

Q.テつ You've been America's top player for a while now and you're the only American in the top 20.テつ Do you still feel any increased expectations to do well at the US Open Series events leading up to New York or did you just mainly focus on your game and the results week‑in and week‑out?
JOHN ISNER:テつ Yeah, I always naturally put a little pressure on myself because I always want to do very well in every tournament I play in.テつ I absolutely can't stand losing.テつ It's a really bad feeling.テつ I guess knowing that I have done very well when the summer season rolls around in the past, it kind of maybe puts a little pressure on me a little bit to do just as well or even better in this upcoming summer.テつ But I'm really not looking at it that way.
I've had a pretty good year so far, and it's super clichテδゥ, but you've just got to take it one match at a time, and that's what I did last summer.テつ I remember in Atlanta I won a bunch of close matches in a row.テつ I wasn't playing great by any means, but it gave me a lot of momentum going forward, and I ended up really capitalizing on that and played extremely well the rest of the way.
You know, for me naturally I put pressure on myself to do well, but it doesn't affect me too much.

Q.テつ You've had a lot of success at the Citi Open especially in Washington, D.C.テつ I was wondering to date what your most memorable match was and who your toughest opponent was, whether it was Gaテδォl Monfils or someone else?
JOHN ISNER:テつ Yeah, I think the match was in 2007 against Monfils when I won that match in a third set tiebreaker.テつ It was actually my fifth third set tiebreaker in a row.テつ I just remember the atmosphere in that match, and once again, I had sort of kind of made a name for myself because I was in the semis, but no one knew who I was and no one expected me to win that match, and I was able to win that one somehow.
So that match in 2007, that one I won't forget.テつ But I also played him, correct me if I'm wrong, in 2010 or 2011 in the semifinals as well where he beat me 7‑6 in the third.テつ So I've had a lot of‑‑ I tend to go the distance in that tournament quite a bit, and most of the time it's worked out in my favor.
TIM CURRY:テつ Thank you.テつ Thank you, John, for taking some time before your busy stretch here over the next eight or nine weeks.

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