John Isner, the lanky and hard-hitting Greensboro native who reached as high as No. 8 in the world, closed his singles career with a five-set loss to fellow American Michael Mmoh 3-6, 4-6, 7-6 (3), 6-4, 7-6 (7) in the second round of the U.S. Open on Thursday in Flushing Meadows.
Isner won the opening two sets and had a match point on Mmoh’s serve in the fifth set, but the 25-year-old Mmoh survived. The final set advanced to a tiebreaker, with Mmoh prevailing 10-7.
Isner had announced on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter, before the U.S. Open that the major would be his final tournament before retirement.
After 17+ years on the @atptour, it’s time to say goodbye to professional tennis. This transition won’t be easy but I’m looking forward to every second of it with my amazing family.
— John Isner (@JohnIsner) August 23, 2023
The only player to eclipse 14,000 aces in a career and the all-time leader in the statistic, Isner was emotional following the loss, first sitting courtside with a towel covering his face before conducting an interview on the court.
“Yeah, it’s tough,” a teary Isner said as the crowd cheered for him as they had throughout the match.
John Isner's singles career comes to an end.
And the appreciation was evident on Grandstand. pic.twitter.com/DwyKReOVTE
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) August 31, 2023
The 38-year-old, who towered over his competition at 6-foot-10 since turning pro in 2007, won 16 ATP Tour titles and ranked in the Top 20 for a decade from 2010 to 2019. He reached the Wimbledon semifinals in 2018, two quarterfinals at the U.S. Open, and the Round of 16 three times at the French Open and twice at the Australian Open. He led Walter Hines High School to a boys’ tennis state championship in 2001 before attending the University of Georgia.
His 11-hour, 5-minute first-round match — played over three days — against Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon in 2010 is the longest in tennis history. Isner came out on top, winning the fifth-set tiebreaker 70-68 while ushering in a new era in which final sets included 10-point tiebreakers to determine winners rather than risk marathon matches like the record-breaking one.
Isner’s singles career ended under the new rule — implemented at the U.S. Open in 2022 — with Mmoh outlasting him.
“This is why I worked as hard as I have my whole life to play in atmospheres like this,” an emotional Isner said when asked about the support from the crowd during his final singles match. “And of course I may not win them all — as we know, just like today. But to play in front of this crowd and have the support I had was pretty special, so thank you.”
Isner’s career isn’t totally over yet — he is teamed up with American Jack Sock in the men’s doubles draw and was set to play Robert Galloway and Albano Olivetti later Thursday.