Big John Isner knows exactly what he needs to do to get back into the top 10. The trouble is he just can't seem to follow through on it.
When the 2.08m American is playing tournaments in his home country he's one of the best players in the world, but when he's on foreign soil he struggles.
Last year he made it to the finals in Cincinnati and Washington and took the titles in Atlanta and Houston, but outside of America he'd struggle to make it past the second round most weeks.
In 2013, he played 10 tournaments inside the US and accumulated 1815 ranking points from them. Outside of America he played 10 also, but picked up only 403. Isner's issue is staring him in the face.
"If I can go further outside of the States I would see a lot better success," Isner told Fairfax Media. "I really feel that for three years I would easily be a top-10 player inside the US and not outside.
"That's something I need to improve and something I will.
"There's no reason for that to be the case every year. I'm most comfortable at home, as anyone is wherever they are from, but I have to get better overseas and it's something I'm constantly having to work on. It's more of a mentality than anything."
There's no actual reason why Isner hasn't done as well outside of America, just as there isn't a logical answer why rugby or soccer teams generally have better results at home than they do away. The dimensions of the court/field are always the same, yet for Isner there has been a difference.
"The last two years, I had really good stretches inside the US and play for 3-4 weeks and do really well, I would keep my ranking up," he said. "Outside the US I wouldn't do as well. That's why you see the same four guys as the top four forever now it seems because they are so consistent every week and in the semis every tournament they play at.
"That's the hard part of trying to break into that level. Outside of that, I am still proud of what I have done. This is my fourth year inside the top 20 and I think that's a pretty good accomplishment."
There are two things every tennis follower knows about Isner, one is that he is the biggest server in the men's game and the other is that he played in the longest ever match, beating Nicolas Mahut 70-68 in the fifth set at Wimbledon in 2010.
Isner would, though, like to be known as a player who's consistently in the top 10. He has worked on the rest of his game over recent years and feels he's no longer a one-trick pony with his serve.
"I know it's not easy and I'm not going to win every tournament and chances are I'm going to lose in a tournament more times than I'm not, but I feel I need to be a little more consistent."
Although Isner hasn't been to Auckland since 2011, he does have fond memories of it as this was where he won his maiden title in 2010, beating Frenchman Arnaud Clermont in the final.
"A lot of times you do well at an event, things go your way early on," he reflected on his time four years ago.
"I won a couple of tough three-set matches in the early rounds and got my teeth into the tournament.
"I started to play better from there. That's been the case at a lot of events I have done well at. It was amazing. Everyone remembers their first title and I certainly remember this one."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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