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March 12, 2019

John Isner

Indian Wells, California

J. ISNER/G. Pella

6-3, 6-4

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. A tough journey Down Under, 0-2. Now you have been doing quite well, to say the least. Just talk about the turnaround.
JOHN ISNER: Yeah, it was a tough start to the season again, unfortunately. But, you know, I had some, you know, good amount of time off after Australia. When I say "time off," I mean time away from tennis tournaments. I went back to work, and I just looked at it as a blessing in disguise, a way to get stronger, keep working on things.

Once I finally got back to playing tournaments, I got that first win under my belt, just been building momentum slowly, ever since I played my first tournament back after Australia. I made three semifinals back to back. I lost two of them, lost really, really tough matches, but I wasn't so discouraged about that. I was more encouraged about how I was playing and how I was going about those matches and the big points.

I just felt I was a little bit unlucky. So coming into here, I knew I was playing pretty well, and I think I have shown that so far.

Q. Speaking of unlucky, your next opponent might be Khachanov. Checking the stats, I think he had three wins over you, six or seven tiebreakers. What has he done very well against you or do you feel it's just been a roll of the dice like it often is in those breakers?
JOHN ISNER: No, I mean, we played three pretty close matches. Every time I have played him, I felt like he played extremely well. I just feel like I ran into a buzz saw of sorts. He's got a big game.

The last time he beat me in the Masters in Paris, he saved a match point, I believe, and he went on to win the tournament.

So, you know, it's going to be a very -- you know, I think it could be a very good match if I do play him. Because he's, as I said, got a big game and does a lot of things really well and someone to really look out for in the future.

Q. At this point in your career, you're a veteran, been out there a long time. Preparing for the season, we have heard from Rafa and Roger and Novak talking about adding different things to their game, even into their 30s. Is that similar for you? Are you constantly looking to add things or is it just a matter of doing the things as well as you can that you've done over all these years?
JOHN ISNER: That's a great question, but the answer is I'm always looking to add things, as well. You don't want to ever rest on your laurels or get pretty stagnant as far as training goes. I think I have implemented some of those this week. Some of it comes from me, some of it comes from my coaches, and we just collaborate on that.

I think it's very important, I think, as you get older to keep trying to add things, because it doesn't necessarily get easier as you get older, especially into your 30s. And I'm no different, as well. I'm constantly evolving, and I think I still have some very good tennis ahead of me, as well.

Q. What are some of the things you look to add this year?
JOHN ISNER: I think just taking time away from my opponents is very important, and that's taking the ball early and coming in off of it, even if it doesn't necessarily seem like an approach shot.

I think that's what -- the greatest ever to do that, in my opinion, is Roger, how early he takes the ball. You know, a lot of the guys I'm playing against are so fast. So if I can just take a split second away from them, I can go a long way.

Q. In some ways a tennis career is a compilation of decisions over the seasons. If you could step back and just look at maybe the one, two, three most important decisions in your career, what would those be?
JOHN ISNER: Yeah, that's a good question.

I think first and foremost, I think staying in North Carolina as a junior was a good decision for me, not going off to a more, you know, more focused tennis environment, you know, be it like an academy or somewhere. I just wanted to stay in North Carolina. I think I kept myself sane.

I think after that going to the University of Georgia was a very wise decision from me. I think after Georgia, you know, it's hard to pinpoint one. I think I have been very fortunate to have a lot of very good coaches in my corner, and a lot of players to look up to, a little bit older than me, to see how they go about their business. I think those two things.

You know, I have had a lot of great coaches, as well, so I have made good choices there. Every single one of them has helped me tremendously.

For me, personally, I have just constantly evolved and become more professional. As I get older, I keep getting more professional. That's the name of the game. You want to try to keep up with everyone, especially the guys ranked ahead of me, because they are doing all the right things, so I have to do them, as well.

Q. And staying in North Carolina, it gave you a base and foundation?
JOHN ISNER: Yeah. Yeah, it did. I mean, I wasn't playing tennis seven days a week. I knew I wanted to go to college to play tennis. You know, I thought to myself, Well, I could just as easily do that staying here as opposed to going somewhere else and practicing tennis six, seven days a week.

Q. I'm a guy that does what I'm doing right now, but this summer I'm going to be in front of 200 kids in a junior program at the club. If John Isner, the face of American tennis, at least one of them, was to stand in front of a group of American juniors, what are some of the things you'd like for them to really keep in mind as a big picture focus on the sport of tennis?
JOHN ISNER: Great question, again. Again, I would say not to get too wrapped up in results, especially at a young age. Everyone deals with this. You have to really focus on the process and not the results. Everyone is different. Everyone is going to mature at different rates.

I think it's important for juniors, boys and girls, to know that their best tennis is not going to be at 14 years old. So winning or losing a match at 14 is not the end of the world, even though it may seem like that. When I lost matches back then, I thought that, as well.

But just knowing that their best tennis is eight, ten years ahead of them. To know they have a lot of time to mature and just to be very, very patient.

Apart from that, I'd say listen to your parents, listen to your coaches, and respect your elders and respect authority. Don't think you're smarter than the people that are looking after you.

Q. Related to the Carolina Hurricanes, which is near and dear to your heart, they take a lot of heat from purists for their celebrations. A lot of people love them. Along those lines, we see Frances Tiafoe at the Australian Open took heat from people saying maybe he should act like he's been there before. I personally disagree with that. I think it's great to see the personality. Denis did a rap today. I just wonder, what do you think about that? Athletes like yourself, can you compartmentalize? Is that a line to be crossed or do you think people should have fun with it all?
JOHN ISNER: No, I think you should have fun with it. I think in the Hurricanes' case, they only do it on home ice, and they only do it if they win or their team is in the locker room. They're not doing it to show up their opponent by any means or to rub a win in their face.

I think the same goes for Frances in Australia. That was just pure emotion from him. He didn't really know what he did. He just kept doing it. He was really elated and it was fun to see. Same with Shapovalov took an interest in rapping. I don't think personally he's that great (smiling) but it's fun. He's showing other sides to his personality, not just his on-court personality. So I think that's cool and unique, and he will probably get better at doing it, as well.

Q. It's that time of the season, NCAA is coming up. Go out on the limb and give us an early pick.
JOHN ISNER: The hoops?

Q. Yep, the hoops.

Q. Don't say Kentucky.
JOHN ISNER: No, I think Virginia maybe. First-round defeat last year, they'll be a little more sharp first round this year. They play great defense. It all depends if Zion comes back or not. If he's healthy and able, you have to -- I think you have to peg Duke as the favorites.

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