After a long year on the tour, several American men are playing their penultimate tournament of the season on Swiss soil. Donald Young, John Isner, Jack Sock and Denis Kudla all made the trip to Basel and it’ll be their penultimate event of the year. With the exception of Kudla (who played compatriot Sock), all men made it into the second round, which features another all-American encounter: after joining up for doubles on Wednesday, Isner and Sock will be on opposite sides of the net on Thursday. René Denfeld caught up with the two Americans in advance of their second round match on Thursday.
“Your time to play,” Isner jokingly told his doubles partner Jack Sock midway through the second set. A mare of a serving game from the elder American, however, sent the pair into a match tiebreak where they eventually fell to Daniel Nestor and Edouard Roger-Vasselin after having had a mini-break advantage.
Still, both men had some good fun on court in their doubles match on Wednesday evening even though Isner was — understandably — far from satisfied after the match finished, shaking his head several times and throwing his racket to the chair.
On Tuesday evening, the World No. 14 left the court far more content after he was able to enact his revenge on Ernests Gulbis, who had taken him out in the second round of Vienna just a few days ago. The American No. 1 was much more efficient in Basel and managed to break the Latvian once in each set to secure a straight set victory.
“The focus for this match was my energy,” Isner said afterwards. “I felt like last week I didn’t have great energy on the court, I didn’t have enough high energy on the court so I threw out Xs and Os and taxes [sic] and all that crap. It was just about energy, never shaking my head and staying upbeat, positive — and I think that paid off.”
Based on the scoreline, Sock appeared to have a similarly convincing victory but his 6-4, 6-2 win over Denis Kudla on Wednesday afternoon wasn’t quite as straightforward as the numbers might suggest.
“Denis is a good friend, another American — so it’s never easy playing a fellow countryman,” Sock said. “I played some good tennis last week in Stockholm, building up some confidence, playing well. Obviously, I came here late, only got a couple of practices on the court. So obviously, very different conditions, different balls and it took a little while to get used to them but happy to get through, definitely — and I gotta play another American next, so we’ll see how that goes.”
The fall has been going quite well for Sock: last weekend, he made the singles final and clinched the doubles title in Stockholm and he’s currently on track to secure a seed at the Australian Open — an even better feat considering the American had to sit out the first two-and-a-half months of the 2015 undergoing pelvis surgery in December 2014. Off the court, the first half of the year wasn’t easy on Sock either.
“Yeah, it’s been a very unfortunate, sad beginning of the year, not even my surgery but my brother being in the hospital; there’s been a lot going on off the court in general in this year,” the 23-year-old said. “Searching agencies, the stuff with my brother, my grandpa passing away — it’s been a tough year. A lot of off court distractions but I feel like I’ve done a good job when I get on the court to put it aside and get it out of my head and play some good tennis. It’s definitely my best year in my career so far so hopefully I can build off of it and keep going.”
For Isner, 2015 was another good year in his books as he solidified his position in the Top 20 as the year went on and posted good results particularly on the U.S. hard courts. Although the season went well for the towering American, he has some regrets when looking back on how it could’ve been even better.
“Well, I had that match in the Montreal quarterfinals [against Chardy], I mean — a quarterfinals in the Masters series is a big deal and I had seven match points,” Isner said. “So yeah — that one. I had match point against Berdych in the quarterfinals in Madrid but all in all…the way I play, I’m gonna win close matches, I’m gonna lose close matches. But I don’t have any regrets in this year, really. I’ve worked my hardest and laid it out there, stayed healthy and whatnot, so I can’t ask for anything more.”
Staying healthy hasn’t just been a big factor for Isner but also for Sock, who’s happy and hopeful that he’ll have an injury-free offseason to build up on his consistent improvement throughout 2015.
“[My] body feels pretty good,” Sock said. “I’ve been playing a lot of tennis lately this fall especially from Davis Cup to now. You know, I played a lot of matches in singles as well as doubles. The rest time is definitely going to be much needed and then get the body back to 100 percent and hopefully I’ll be ready to go at the end of the year.”
Much like Sock, Isner is also planning to lay the groundwork of his offseason in the physical department to prepare for 2016 — while also giving his body sufficient rest to make sure he starts next season healthy rather than banged up.
“The only times I’ve ever gotten hurt really has actually been in the off-season, so it’s bizarre,” he said. “Once I get into the thick of the season, I feel better. I’ll certainly take it easy, [and] the main focus of the offseason is working on my body. Of course i’ll get out there and hit balls but I’m not going out there [for] six hours to play by any means — just staying healthy, do it all again next year. I’m in a very good position, in a very fortunate position, to do all this.”
For Sock, it’s not just the on-court action that’s keeping him busy since the Kansas City Royals — Sock’s Major League Baseball team of choice — are currently fighting it out with New York Mets in the World Series. The Kansas City resident is trying to keep up with all the action, but the time difference and tour life is making things difficult — a struggle he shares with millions of sports fans across the globe.
“I’ve been sleeping normally, but it is pretty stressful going to bed and knowing that when I wake up whether we won or lost,” he said. “Not being able to watch is brutal but I think actually after last year, that helped a little bit because last year was obviously the first time we were in the World Series for a long time. It was a little bit harder to sleep last time. This year, I kind of got a routine — go to bed, wake up and see how it went.”