John Isner was flying high into the Miami Open presented by Itau final, reaching the championship match in South Florida without dropping a set. But the 2018 champion quickly lost the first set against Roger Federer, and began feeling pain in his left foot a couple of games into the second. The American finished the match, but he was clearly in pain, returning home to find out he has a stress fracture in his left foot that doctors say will keep him sidelined for three to six weeks.
The good thing for Isner is that while he is home, he gets to spend plenty of time with his six-month-old daughter Hunter Grace.
“It helps so much. She takes up a lot of my time even though I can’t really do that much. I have to be off my feet,” Isner told ATPTour.com. “I just actually fed her sitting on the couch and had a lot of fun doing that. But it certainly takes my mind off the injury. Sitting here right now I have nothing to complain about whatsoever. I’m keeping a very positive mindset on all of this because life is pretty good.”
The good news for Isner is that he is hoping to return for the Mutua Madrid Open, an ATP Masters 1000 tournament that begins on 3 May. The American will hope to maintain the confidence he has built by winning 15 of his past 20 matches. Isner’s 15-7 start in 2019 is his best start ahead of the clay-court season since 2012 when he went 15-6.
“I consider myself very fortunate. I could have hurt myself in my second match and had to have probably lost that match or pulled out of the tournament. There was just one match to go and of course I was thrilled to be in the final. I wanted to put on a little bit of a better show out there but I was also up against the greatest player of all-time,” Isner said. “Being in the final of a Masters, I could definitely draw confidence from that for sure. When I come back, if it’s Madrid, I won’t have hit many balls before my first match. But I could look back knowing the last tournament I played I made the final and it was a very big tournament.”
The World No. 10 doesn’t know exactly when the injury occurred. But it was extremely painful, and while he battled to the best of his ability, he knew there was not much he could do against Federer.
“It was just any time I put weight on my left foot. Serving puts a lot of weight on my left foot, that’s my predominant leg when I’m serving. Any other movement that required any sort of push off my left leg was pretty excruciating,” Isner said. “It was a tough, tough feeling because there’s nothing you could do. There’s no hiding it out there. You can’t play through that pain, either. You’re stuck out there. It’s a pretty miserable feeling.”
Isner is doing his best to stay off his feet at home in Dallas, Texas. The only time he’s really leaving the house is when he has to go get treatment on his foot.
“For the most part the more I stay off my foot the better. The less pressure that’s on my foot, the quicker it’s going to heal,” Isner said. “It’s tough for me because it seems counterproductive. Even when I’ve been hurt in the past I’ve always been able to actively recover. But this is a tough one to actively recover.”
The 2018 Nitto ATP Finals qualifier says that the toughest part of the situation is how immobile he has to stay. Even if his foot is 100 per cent ready, but he is not in satisfactory ‘tennis shape’, he’s not going to rush back to compete in Madrid. He plans on taking his time so that he is completely over the injury before playing again.
“I’ve been pretty used to being healthy the past bunch of years. I take a lot of pride in keeping myself healthy even though it’s not an easy task whatsoever,” Isner said. “Being on the shelf right now, as far as times of the season go, it’s not a horrible time. It’s just foreign to me because I’m so used to training when I’m home and working out and being very, very active. Because my foot is hurt, it’s very hard to do all of that.”
Isner was looking forward to competing at the Fayez Sarofim & Co. U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship next week in Houston, as he could drive from his home to the event. But he’s likely to not be able to even practise next week, so he had to make the tough decision to withdraw.
“I’m absolutely bummed to be missing Houston considering it’s a tournament I can drive to and a tournament I’ve never missed in my whole career. I played it 12 years in a row,” Isner said. “This year I’m going to miss it and that’s pretty tough to swallow because I really enjoy playing there.”
For now, Isner is doing his best to remain positive, rest up, and set his sights on Madrid and beyond.
“It’s all about how I feel. It’s all about how my foot feels, if I could put all my weight on my leg and as of now I can’t do that at all,” Isner said. “I’ve always been a fast healer when things have popped up here and there. I do believe that I’m going to get over this in a very quick fashion. It won’t be tomorrow or the next day or probably next week. So I just have to give it time.”