French Open: It’s nasty out there, but I like it, says American John Isner

American John Isner is through to the next round of the French Open.
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports/File Photo

Big-serving American John Isner said it was “bit nasty out there” after coming through his opening round at the French Open on Sunday but had few complaints about the conditions.

The 35-year-old Texas resident does not usually play in chill winds and drizzle on a damp claycourt, but the 21st seed still impressed in a 6-4 6-1 6-3 defeat of French wildcard Elliot Benchetrit in one hour 42 minutes.

While many players moaned about the conditions, the heavy balls, and the lack of atmosphere in a largely-empty Roland Garros complex, Isner was upbeat after his first match on the red dirt for more than two years.

“It’s been more than two years since I’ve stepped foot on clay,” Isner, who has made three runs to the fourth round in Paris, told reporters.

“But with how the clay is now, I think it almost helps me in the sense that the really good movers can’t slide around like they normally can because the clay’s really damp.

“It kind of played like a slow hard court, I thought. There wasn’t much sliding. I’m not the best slider. It’s tough conditions but I really don’t mind it.”

Whatever the weather, Isner’s serve remains one of the most potent in tennis and although his seven aces on Sunday was modest by his standards, he believes that he can still blast through the heavy clay to dangerous effect.

“A lot of people think I prefer playing on fast courts. That’s not the case at all,” he said. “I much prefer playing on slower courts. I like my serve in any conditions. Outside of my serve, if I’m playing on a slow court, it gives me more time.”

Isner praised the job the French federation had done in getting the French Open on, although he said the health restrictions imposed because of the pandemic had given the tournament a very different feel.

“I think just the fact that we’re playing in September and October, it’s never been done before here,” he said. “Having no fans stinks. The atmosphere at this event is unbelievable, one of the best we have all year long. We don’t have that right now.

“At the same time, it’s a Grand Slam. There will be no asterisks whoever wins this event, whether it’s Rafa, Novak, Thiem, any of those guys.”

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