John Isner Biography And Detailed Game Analysis

John Isner is a professional tennis player from North Carolina. He is one of the tallest players on the tour and his phenomenal serve has helped him reach a career high-ranking of number 10 in the world as of March 2012.

Check Out Isner Hitting A 141 Mph Monster Serve!


John was born in 1985 in Greensboro North Carolina. He was somewhat of a later starter in regards to his Tennis. During his junior career he only reached a career high ranking of number 93 in the world in 2002.

He is one of the few successful professional tennis players that played College Tennis. He played for four years at the University of Georgia from 2004-2007. In his time at Georgia he led his team to win the NCAA championship in 2007 and also reached the singles final.

Isner got off to a pretty quick start in his professional career after college. He finished 2007, his first year as a professional, just outside the Top100 in the world. In 2008 he did not do so well but 2009 became his breakthrough year during which he won the Most Improved Player Award from the ATP. He has been continuously getting better and 2012 has been a huge year for him.

He beat Roger Federer in Davis Cup on clay in Switzerland and also reached the finals of the ATP Masters 1000 event in Indian Wells in 2012

Isner Beats Federer In Davis Cup 2012-03-19

Game Analysis

Isner’s game is build around his huge serve and a big forehand. His game plan of keeping points short has been troubling a lot of the world’s best players recently!


Isner has a great serve and a solid forehand from a technical standpoint. The rest of his game is below average on the technical side


John hits a solid forehand with which he oftentimes manages to put a lot of pressure on opponents. He starts with a good unit turn and has a nice short compact motion.

Have A Look At His Forehand In Slow Motion

As you can see his swing is not very big. We can see the usual swing path going from high to low to high and also inside-out. He generates a lot of power from pre-stretching the forearm muscles just before hitting the shot.

Overall a very solid forehand!


Isner’s backhand is a rather weak shot. He has a problematic grip with the right hand and it somehow reminds me of the way link: Andy Roddick hits his backhand.

Overall he is not able to generate a lot of power with the shot and he also tends to mishit quite a few!

I didn’t find a slow motion video but you can see Isner hitting a few backhands in this practice video:

Isner Hitting In Practice

Isner does not get into some of the key body positions necessary for a good two-handed backhand and as a result he is not able to generate effortless power. Similar to Roddick he manages to keep the ball in play but he is not able pressure his opponents with these backhand mechanics!


Isner’s slice is an ok shot. He manages to keep the ball in play when he uses it on defense and sometimes he uses it to approach the net. Nevertheless, his slice shots tend to float a bit too much and don’t really skid through the court enough to make them really effective.


As a result of his big game Isner does come to the net quite a bit. He does a pretty good job finishing points at the net but unfortunately he has a rather weak backhand volley. His forehand volley is solid though.

Have A Look At Isner Hitting Some Volleys


Isner’s serve is obviously his biggest weapon. It is probably one of the most dominant serves of all-time in professional tennis. His height is of course a big factor and a huge advantage. Nevertheless, Isner also has excellent technique on his serve!

The first thing to notice is the fluidity of the motion. His motion is very fluid and this allows him to hit with effortless power!

Have A Look At Isner’s Serve In Regular Speed And Slow Motion

John has a great rhythm on his serve. He uses a rather low toss and times the motion with that toss. One other thing to look at is how far out in front he contacts the ball. This in combination with the height of the contact point lets him create those unbelievable angles on his serve!

Here Is Another Serve Video From His College Days


Isner has really impressed me recently with his strategy and tactics. He relentlessly follows his game plan of keeping points short and going for big forehands. He often runs around on his opponents second serves and goes for a huge forehand.

This makes a lot of sense for him because he will not beat these guys in long baseline rallies. His backhand is too weak and with his height he can not move like the other top guys.

Essentially, he follows through on the same game plan that I believe Andy Roddick should be using but for some reason Roddick always goes back to grinding from the baseline

In addition to going for those big shots Isner also changes up the pace of the rally quite a bit even though I don’t believe that is intentional. His topspin backhand and his slice come in at a rather slow speed. So his opponents face all kinds of different shots which they are not very used to.

So this game plan makes it extremely difficult for his opponents to get any kind of rhythm against him. As a result they will often make uncharacteristic errors.

This lack of rhythm even frustrated world number 1 Novak Djokovic in the Indian Wells semifinals 2012.

Isner Beats Djokovic In Indian Wells 2012


In recent years Isner has developed a lot from a physical standpoint. He now manages to move around the baseline reasonably well. His height is of course his biggest asset and one of the main reasons for his success.


I believe Isner is a very good competitor. Listening to him in interviews it appears to me that this guy has a lot of confidence and really believes that he belongs in the world’s elite group of tennis players.

In Indian Wells 2012 he came up with a lot of big serves in crucial moments and I don’t expect him to get nervous if he manages to go deep into a Grand Slam tournament!


Ranking John Isner is very difficult. I believe there is not too much room for improvement in the physical, mental, and tactical areas since he is already very strong in those. On the technical side he could certainly improve his backhand, his slice and his backhand volley

1. Physical
2. Mental
3. Tactical
4. Technical


John Isner is currently a Top10 player which has certainly surprised me. His serve is one of the biggest weapons I have ever seen and he has combined that with a smart game plan to maximize his abilities.

He is strong mentally and therefore I expect him to continue on this path and definitely stay within the Top20. I would be surprised though if he can consistently serve so well that he has a shot at becoming a Top5 player.

From a coaching standpoint, he would be an even better player if he could improve his topspin backhand and his backhand volley. It is of course extremely unlikely that he will work on his technique at this point of his career though!

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