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John Isner beats Gael Monfils, but ‘disappointed’ in New York crowd

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John Isner struggled to win over the New York crowd in his win over Gael Monfils at the U.S. Open. (Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)

John Isner struggled to win over the New York crowd in his victory over Gael Monfils at the U.S. Open. (Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)

NEW YORK — In the most anticipated match of an otherwise drama-free Day 4, John Isner overcame a surprising lack of crowd support to defeat Gael Monfils 7-5, 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (4) in the second round of the U.S. Open on Thursday night.

Isner looked well on his way to a straight-sets win after playing aggressively to win the first two sets in just one hour and 11 minutes. While the crowd voiced its support for the dynamic and entertaining Frenchman through the first two sets, it grew even more vocal in the third as Monfils battled back to take the set.

“I always love playing in New York and I always had a good crowd here and many fans,” Monfils said. “Today they were behind me and they were very helpful for me to hang around and grab that third set. It was an amazing atmosphere out there and I am very thankful for them today.”

Monfils said he’s never received that level of support outside the French Open.

“Here it’s the most after Paris,” he said. “I always say here is my second home.”

Watch: Monfils falls down, but still hits a winner against Isner

A New York crowd backing a Frenchman against the top-ranked American? As the chants of “Mon-fils! Mon-Fils! Mon-fils” rang between games and sometimes even between points, Isner admitted that he grew frustrated.

“I was a little bit disappointed in that, actually,” Isner said. “Not going to sugar-coat it. It was certainly, if I was playing him in France, it certainly wouldn’t be like that.”

Isner wasn’t the only one caught off guard by an American crowd backing a foreign player on U.S. soil.

Said Isner: “He’s a fun‑loving guy and an exciting guy to watch no matter where he is playing, but honestly, it was a little bit surprising. I know the New York fans, they like to see long matches and fifth sets and whatnot, but it’s not like there was no one cheering for me.

“It was a great atmosphere, it was a lot of fun, I’m not saying it wasn’t. I played a similar match when I played Tommy Haas in Paris. I had about five people cheering for me, and those were the five people in my box. So the French people were cheering for the German there,” he said with a laugh.

It’s easy for Isner to laugh about it after walking away with the win, but overwhelming support for Monfils as the match grew tighter clearly got under his skin. After he took a long bathroom break to change his clothes after losing the third set, Isner returned to the court with the Monfils chants still rolling around the stadium. When Isner won a point, the crowd offered polite applause. When Monfils won a point, it erupted. As the momentum began to swing, Isner grew more passive and Monfils was able to wrestle back the momentum.

As Monfils threw his body around the court, engaged with the crowd and started bobbing his head to the sound of the crowd chanting his name, Isner buckled down.

“That’s sort of how he is,” Isner said. “It’s not to say he’s not a great competitor. He enjoys atmospheres more than anyone else in the world. He wants to soak it up and play to the crowd more than anyone, really. That’s just how he is.

“For me, I didn’t want to get involved in a little hit‑and‑giggle thing with him and try and get going back and forth. I just wanted to stay focused. I didn’t want it to be too friendly out there even though he’s a very good friend of mine.”

With Monfils serving from behind in the fourth set, Isner was able to get to 0-30 at 4-5 and 5-6 but couldn’t earn a match point. When Monfils finally held serve to force a tiebreak, Isner found a way to win by hitting two of his best serves — both coming in at more than 135 mph — coupled by perhaps the best inside-out forehand he hit all night to earn match point. He celebrated by pointing to the fans and telling them to get behind him, and, in an odd twist, they did. As if the crowd needed to re-prove its fickle nature, chants of “U-S-A” finally rang out for the first time.

When Monfils sent a forehand passing shot into the net on match point, Isner dropped his racket and did his “Superman” celebration, an ode to Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. The two friends shared a hug at the net.

“He was just better than me,” Monfils said. “I have no [problem] to admit that. I just [gave] everything I had and he was just better than me today and we played on a nice court, a nice atmosphere, So thanks, John, good luck for the rest [of the tournament].”

Isner plays Philipp Kohlschreiber, who beat him in five sets here last year, on Saturday.

  • Published On Aug 30, 2013
  • 50 comments
    Tom14
    Tom14

    Jimmy Connors was not loved in NY until later in his career and MacEnroe showed up and showed what a punk was, heck they rooted against John and he grew up a few miles away. Which these guys would take some lessons from Todd Martin who was an underdog you could always root for.

    r.currier3
    r.currier3

    That's why this country is an odd one in contrast with the other locales where these players call home.  The fans in other lands wouldn't dare not cheer for their native son no matter how dull the personality, how one-dimensional the game, or a lack of winks, bust-ups, hiccups, flatulence, pratfalls and other nonsense one commentator labelled "showmanship".  Give me a break...    The US Open should be relocated to Dallas....then let's see how many hoots and howls Monfils generates against an American player. 

    williejonas
    williejonas

    Isner will get cheers when he loses his hangdog look. He looks like he isn't enjoying himself out there. In fact, he looks like he would rather be somewhere else.  The contrast with Gael is marked. Isner also needs to improve his volleying skills. Crowds cheer excellence and when all he has is his serve and the odd excellent forehand, well, you can see why crowds backed Gael.


    I also think Isner should get rid of the bounce the ball between his legs move before he serves. I worry that one day he will miss and injure himself!

    tfaw
    tfaw

    watching tennis is like watching paint dry.  

    MistaBlack
    MistaBlack

    ...and Isner heads south after losing to Kohlschreiber.

    MistaBlack
    MistaBlack

    Isner is a "stick in the mud".  He's like a sedative; he puts you to sleep. Isner has no personality, and watching his on the court is like watching paint dry, root canal painful.

    6marK6
    6marK6

    The problem for Isner is he has no personality and has never won anything big. New Yorkers will root for stars and personalities, but you ain't either.

    OtisDriftwood
    OtisDriftwood

    NY'rs seem to me to be not loyal.  Based on what I've seen from the Open, they are loudmouth, obnoxious cretins

    MCB
    MCB

    Not sure what the Williams have to do with this discussion about Isner. Tennis is an international sport. It has been for quite sometime. People cheer for whom they like. Should Federer ONLY be popular in Switzerland? Ridiculous. Monfils is an exciting and engaging player who throws himself into the game. Crowds love that. John has a lot of growing up to do. His response was whiney and his tweet extremely revealing. Perhaps he would feel more comfortable only playing tournaments in his beloved South.

    whutwhut
    whutwhut

    Half the people at the Open are not from NY

    MistaBlack
    MistaBlack

    I vividly remember the days when Serena and his sister Venus couldn't buy a fan in the U.S.  The fans and even the commentators were almost contemptuous when they dared to show up against Hingus, Cllijsters and other Belgium Justine Henin.  Venus and Serena had to suck it up, be polite and continue to let their racquets do the talking.  Any fans they have today they truly earned since, they started with a deficit despite being (?)-American.  They was NO one to point out how cruel this was and mostly how unpatriotic.  

    The hypocrisy of it all motivated by the skin of his opponent Monfils.  Isner tweets: "I miss the south".!???  What would have been the backlash had the William sisters responded in the same manner?  Isner has a right to request the support of fellow Americans, but the hypocrisy stinks.  And what was the south tweet about?  What does it mean and say about this near 7 foot underachiever?  I saw something in his eyes that said a whole lot more than anything that came out of his mouth.

    Kin
    Kin

    I like John, especially since he seems far less prone to Roddickian tempter tantrums... 

    But John, dear, your white male privilege is showing.  If the WIlliamses can manage to deal with American crowds that actively root against them for the entirety of their careers, I'm sure you can deal with one instance of the crowd rallying behind a uniquely entertaining opponent. Time to put on the big girl panties, John; I'm sure Serena can lend you a pair. 

    cdns211
    cdns211

    I would have liked the crowd to root for Isner too, as he is our last best hope (dont like the god's country tweet however), but at the same time, the American crowds forever rooted against BOTH Williamses, since they were kids. The goons around here can give whatever excuses about Serena, but the US crowds have not rooted for them even before Williams sisters were embroiled in any controversies. The pathetic commentators always tried to give some BS excuses like "oh the crowds want to see more competitive matches", "it is because of their dad", etc. Funny, because when it involved other dominant players, commentators never said why crowds were rooting for them; nor did they explain why a lot more obnoxious dads never prevented the crowds from rooting for their offspring. 


    Even related to the controversies, the hypocrisy was high. Serena's line call got so much hype, but the next year, Roddick was equally obnoxious, actually going on for a whole match berating the line person, and no one from Carillo on downwards called for Roddick to be suspended for a whole year.


    To put it mildly, tennis crowds and commentators of this era were generally biased against the sisters from the beginning, most likely due to their skin color, and  future generations when they write the history of this era, will definitely mark that down.

    MichaelC
    MichaelC

    Last night was classic NYC crowd. They like the underdog, they like excitement, and they like five-set matches. And it's a night-time crowd - usually a bit younger and a bit more sloshed - with Monfils doing his "drawing the crowd in" thing. Really, with Monfils involved, how wasn't this predictable? In the end, I think the crowd wanted a longer, entertaining match but at the same time, wanted Isner to win. And as nice a summer as Isner is having this year (and his personality is coming out more too), he's still not a "name" player for the casual fan - like an Agassi or Roddick. 

    My only question is why Monfils can barely crack 105 mph on his first serve.

    Robert96
    Robert96

    Tennis is an international sport........... as an American, I would root for Fedderer over anyone...........so what?

    Vinny Cordoba
    Vinny Cordoba

    @muser, You have got to be kidding. Isner is a "petulant punk?" Do you know anything at all about tennis? Isner is easily one of the most friendly, likeable guys on the tour. Ask anyone on tour. Ask anyone who follows tennis. You obviously don't follow tennis or you wouldn't say something so completely asinine. Did you see Isner's interview following the match? He had nothing but great things to say about Monfils. He never criticizes another player and never makes excuses. 


    Beyond that, I like Monfils too. I was glad to see him play well. But in typical U.S. fashion, the crowd pulls for Monfils all the way up to Isner's first match point, then all of a sudden you hear all these shouts of  "USA! USA! USA!" Only when Isner finally has the match on his racket does the crowd switch its allegiance. Typical frontrunning crowd. The U.S. and New York, they just love a winner. They will switch in a nanosecond when they finally smell a winner.

    Party_Gator
    Party_Gator

    Wozniaki acting amazed by this shows how tone deaf she is.    Lucky the fans haven't turned on her like they did Hingis.

    dayo1026_2000
    dayo1026_2000

    Why are they making such a big deal out of this.  Where was the outrage when the same New York crowd cheered loudly for Clijsters over Venus Williams.  Is she not American, too?  It's tennis.  Fans have their favorite players, and Monfils is one heck of an entertainer.  Give it a rest already!

    muser
    muser

    Isner is a petulant punk. There are very few athletes in sports that are harder to like.

    Grant1
    Grant1

    @tfaw and yet, here you are on a tennis forum, trolling. Go watch some grass grow.


    Vinny Cordoba
    Vinny Cordoba

    @MistaBlack , Here's an idea: turn off the TV and do something else. Because guess what: he's not in the business of personally entertaining you or anyone else with the attention span of a two-week old gnat.

    Vinny Cordoba
    Vinny Cordoba

    @6marK6 , he's never won anything big. Who outside of Fed, Rafa, Djoker and Murray has won anything big in men's tennis. Never mind, I'll tell you: DelPo won the 2009 U.S. Open. Hewitt won a couple majors about a million years ago. That's pretty much it.

    14owg60
    14owg60

    @MistaBlack  I concur.  Whomever Venus and Serena play, the American crowd has always cheered against them on American soil.  I have attended several USTA Tournaments, and Americans sitting around me always cheer against the Americans Venus and Serena. So now it's happened to Isner and everyone thinks it's so awful.  Everyone is talking about it -- the media, journalist and all the articles.  The media has always been aware of the crowd cheering against Venus and Serena, but they address it in a different way.   The media's excuse for this behavior is  "the crowd is cheering for the underdog" when it happens to Venus and Serena.  That's BULL!  So why now do we have the concern with John Isner? Welcome to the world John Isner.  Now you know how mentally tough Venus and Serena had to be over the years , playing on their home soil while the crowd cheers AGAINST them.

    BethannbillyWintour
    BethannbillyWintour

    @cdns211 That's the first thing I thought of when I heard about Isner being disappointed.  He doesn't know how good he has it.

    Vinny Cordoba
    Vinny Cordoba

    @cdns211 , they used to boo McEnroe a lot too even though he was a hometown boy, because he was an arrogant, obnoxious prick (who also happens to be my favorite player of all time, but never mind). Sometimes a player's personality and behavior grate on people. I never understood why anyone would boo Venus. I can understand why they're not all lovely-dovey with Serena, just like I can understand why they weren't lovey-dovey with Mac.

    NoIsnerFan
    NoIsnerFan

    @Vinny Cordoba @muser I didn't think Isner was a punk until I saw that Tweet, which is pathetic and inexcusable. If I had been at Armstrong I would have been cheering, and indeed rooting for Monfils to win, because I like him as a player - not because of what country he is from. From now on I will actually root AGAINST Isner. And I'm bummed about that, because I would actually like to be able to root for an American man. But not Isner. No way. I hope a certain Spanish lefty destroys him. 

    cdns211
    cdns211

    @muser You are joking. He is very likable and polite. I dont like the slanted tweet as the guys pointed below, but otherwise, he is a nice bloke. Much better than Roddick.

    Kaboodle
    Kaboodle

    Worse than a punk, his tweet "I miss the south #godscountry" is extremely disturbing, given Monfils' ethnicity and nationality.

    MistaBlack
    MistaBlack

    @Vinny Cordoba @MistaBlack Tennis is on TV and all other media to do exactly that, to ENTERTAIN.  Let this gnat retort by informing the troglodyte that the entertainment value directly affects the redneck(Isner) from god's country's marketability and ultimately his financial viability.  I suspect that optimum financial compensation is one of his goals.

    It is not my fault that I and others like myself who possess the attention span of a gnat are being severely challenged watching a 7 ft leviathan with a personality of a gnat moving on the court like molasses in winter.  He brings nothing to tennis but his height and reach with no success to talk about.  And finally who wants to root for a 7ft cry baby!

    MistaBlack
    MistaBlack

    @14owg60 @MistaBlack Wow, perfectly said!  Those who are infected with the affliction of prejudice are unable to recognize the facts we detail, the inconsistency and the hypocrisy that we point to.  The undiagnosed disease within would not allow them to appreciate this sad irreconcilable parallelism.


    I use to viscerally hurt as these (?)-American girls had to fight for acceptance in their own country as they invaded a resistant monochromatic tennis court.  And I find it sometimes hard to forgive and relent as the 'Johnny come lately's' who use to disdain them now to cheer "My Girls" on but it is still a fragile cheer subject to them maintaining ideal conduct.

    Vinny Cordoba
    Vinny Cordoba

    @14owg60 @MistaBlack , honestly, WTF does this have to do with the Williams sisters? Anytime something happens in tennis, some band of Williams sister trolls has to make it all about the Williams sisters. But that's only in your world, not the real world.

    cdns211
    cdns211

    @Vinny Cordoba @cdns211 I dont think the hostility that Williams' face (d) is comparable to what McEnroe had. When Johnny was playing, (and btw I like Mac very much myself, and he cant be called obnoxious in the same way that Connors was) for example against Ivan Lendl at USO, the crowds were very much pro Mac. Contrast that with Williams, Serena or venus, versus Russians, Chinese, any other nationality that is not naturally affiliated as being a US friendly nation, and at best the crowds were neutral and at worst blatantly, anti-Williams.


    And come on, how many of your own friends made ridiculously anti-Serena remarks, snidely commenting on their muscles, looks, etc. In groups of friends, you can only protest so many times, before you can be tagged as a race defender. Perhaps you are lucky, may be your friends are nice and well balanced, but I can tell you I have quite a few friends and acquaintances who are not so. 


    And btw, when Mac was playing, the US used to dominate the world, mens and womens. So, the crowds here had a lot of alternate choices to root for. In the last decade, Americans had Roddick, Serena, occasionally Venus (not in the last 4,5 years), and that's it. And yet, crowds chose to be fiercely anti-Serena. 

    Vinny Cordoba
    Vinny Cordoba

    @Kaboodle , oh come on. Isner and Monfils are great friends. Isner is from the South, it's his home. He was just saying that he missed being where fans cheer for him. He was just disturbed that fans were rooting for his opponent in the U.S. Open, where he's the top-ranked American player. Stop reading so much into it. Isner is and always has been one of the best liked players on tour. Do some research.

    Vinny Cordoba
    Vinny Cordoba

    @MistaBlack , one tweet sent out of frustration in the heat of the moment, and all of a sudden you are an expert on Isner's character and personality. Never mind that for years, he has been one of the friendliest and best liked players on tour. Never mind that he's great friends with Monfils, that he praised Monfils after the match, and that he has nothing but good things to say about his opponents. Read through this thread and you will see that I, too, didn't like the "god's country" bit. But I understand as an adult that it was just something he said out of frustration and that he has praised the U.S. Open and New York countless times in the past. 

    In sports, things are only black and white for children. We're not talking about some huge human event here. It's just a tennis match, yet you want to turn it into a melodrama about the human condition.

    MistaBlack
    MistaBlack

    @Vinny Cordoba@MistaBlack  Let's end the ad hominem.  You acknowledge in an earlier post that you don't watch female tennis; therefore, you are out of our element when it comes to do with comparing this incident with what routinely took place with the Williams sisters.

    And yes some human occurrences are Black/White.  Why is it that rooting for Monfils against Isner deserves his ire and the critique of so many while the support for Federer has never garnered the same castigation?  And yes his sophomoric tweet missing the South and identifying it as "god's country" in oppose to North being the devil's country(?) relegates him to the title "Red Neck".

    Vinny Cordoba
    Vinny Cordoba

    @MistaBlack @Vinny Cordoba , right. You say you were a freshman at Columbia University in 1981. And yet you act like a 13-year-old kid with your simple minded black-and-white good guy/bad guy/hero/villain Isner-is-a-redneck crybaby narrative, even though he's neither, and anyone who follows tennis for more than five minutes knows this.

    MistaBlack
    MistaBlack

    @Vinny Cordoba @MistaBlack In 1981, I was a freshman at Columbia University so at my age cute is not what I'm known for but you surpass me with being patronizing and condescending.

    The fact that you presumed that my post required a thesaurus tells me that you believe that there was something weighty about words that typifies my conversations.  There was nothing defunctive in the words that I used.

    Anyway Isner "the redneck crybaby" will heading back to god's country soon. 

    Vinny Cordoba
    Vinny Cordoba

    @MistaBlack   , how cute. You broke out the thesaurus and everything for this post. You even put an exclamation point at the end to bring it all home with flair. this should earn you a solid C+ in your freshman comp class. But seriously, you don't like Isner, we get it. So next time you see him on your TV, do yourself a favor and change the channel. No need to thank me.

    14owg60
    14owg60

    @Vinny Cordoba @cdns211 I recall a match when Venus played Mauresmo in semifinals at US Open in the early 2000's.  It appeared the entire stadium cheered against Venus.  I did not understand it.  Even Martina Nav commented in an article how disgraceful she thought it was that the Americans cheered against Venus, and if hat had that been Yannick Noah, the French would have never cheered against him. The French accept their citizens regardless of color or race.  

    Vinny Cordoba
    Vinny Cordoba

    @cdns211 , well, I will confess this much: I don't watch a lot of women's tennis, so I can't really say how badly the Williams sisters have been treated, or anyone else, for that matter. I do watch a WHOLE lot of men's tennis. There aren't a lot of minority players out there, but I do know Monfils and Tsonga are pretty well liked everywhere they go because they are such good guys and so easy to pull for. They seem to enjoy themselves. Maybe it's a French thing. A lot of French players like to have a good time out there.

    Vinny Cordoba
    Vinny Cordoba

    @NoIsnerFan  , defensive? See, that's stupid. I'm defending Isner because I like him, because he's a nice guy who got a little frustrated.

    I lived in New York City for many years. It's my favorite place on earth. I've lived in Los Angeles, I've lived in Connecticut. I could care less about south, east, north, west, whatever. I could care less about the U.S. in general, to be perfectly honest with you. But being from the South, I can tell you for a fact that "god's country" is just a cliche, like saying New York is "the town so nice they named it twice."

    You've probably never been out of your own neighborhood so what do you know about it?

    Vinny Cordoba
    Vinny Cordoba

    @hancock01010 @Vinny Cordoba , I'm from the South, and I spent years lving in NYC. So I think I have some perspective here. "God's country" is just a cliche. For most Southerners it doesn't mean a damn thing beyond "there's no place like home." If Isner had a habit of praising God after every win or crossing himself, then I would take it as more than that. But since he seems to be a regular guy I doubt very seriously that he was saying "the north and new york is full of foreign godless heathens." That's a huge, steaming pile of BS.  

    hancock01010
    hancock01010

    @Vinny Cordoba @hancock01010 Perhaps. I understand the "home crowd" frustration better than most (look at my avatar, US Soccer), but making a leap from "Monfils is a great guy, I understand why the crowd is behind him" to "I miss the south, it's God's Country" = "the north and new york is full of foreign godless heathens" is repugnant and let's us know what he really thinks.

    Vinny Cordoba
    Vinny Cordoba

    @hancock01010   @Vinny Cordoba , personally, I could have done without the "god's country" bit, and I'm surprised that was attached. But making that leap into something racist is ridiculous given the fact that Isner and Monfils are great friends, hang out a lot and play a lot of hoops together. Isner was just frustrated by a lack of love from the crowd. Jesus, people can find evil lurking behind every little raindrop anymore.