John Isner already has had an incredible year in Davis Cup, beating Roger Federer in the first round, and French stars Gilles Simon and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga this weekend. And both were on the road on clay.
On Twitter, someone suggested Isner will be a force at the French Open, maybe even win it. I can only agree with half that statement. Isner plays the quintessential American game with a big forehand and big serve, but he doesn’t do it as well as Pete Sampras. Sampras never got to the finals of the French Open in an era where Roland Garros was wide open. Sampras’ era never had a player who dominated the red clay like Rafael Nadal.
Nadal wouldn’t be the only player Isner would have to struggle with. Federer has won a French Open title, and Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray have been better clay players than Isner. Asking Isner to beat one of the big four is a huge task. Beating two of the big four, which is likely what he would have to do to win the French Open, is a gigantic task.
But he certainly can do well. With the way Isner is playing, you’d think there’s no reason why he couldn’t get into the quarterfinals. Guys like Simon and Tsonga are expected to get to the quarterfinals, and Isner beat both this weekend.
U.S. Davis Cup captain Jim Courier had the most success of any American in recent years when he claimed the French Open title twice in the early 90s. Courier is proving to have one of the best coaching minds in the game, and if he goes to Paris and helps advise Isner, that could help Isner’s chances.
I like Isner’s chances to have a good run at Roland Garros, and he’s had an exciting run this year. It could be a boost American tennis needs. But let’s not say he’s got a chance to win the clay court major — yet.