LONDON -- John Isner is best-known for playing the longest match in tennis history, an 11-hour 5-minute epic played over three days against Nicolas Mahut in 2010 at Wimblebon.
But it was a quick turnaround that made good-natured Isner the temporary center of attention Tuesday during a press conference featuring Serena and Venus Williams, Andy Roddick, and the rest of the United States Olympic tennis team.
Before the formal question-and-answer session began, Roddick, who seems to revel in an easygoing leadership-by-wisecrack approach, could be heard teasing Isner about his particular tennis commitment the night before.
Isner could be found at the Ferncroft Country Club’s Joan Norton Stadium in Middleton Monday, representing the Boston Lobsters against the Philadelphia Freedom in World TeamTennis.
Isner lost his singles match, then won at doubles and mixed doubles before departing to a standing ovation from the nearly 2,000 in attendance, headed for Logan Airport and a late-night flight to London.
Isner, the 6-foot-9-inch University of Georgia product who will be participating in his first Olympics, had some fun at his own expense regarding his unusual prelude.
When Isner was asked whether he'd had a chance to enjoy the Olympic experience yet, he had his tongue-in-cheek answer queued up and ready to go.
"Well, the atmosphere at the Lobsters,'' he said, pausing for a beat, while teammates and reporters laughed, "is second to none. Basically, it gets me well-prepared for the Olympic games."
Isner of course enjoys playing for the Lobsters, as anyone who has seen him engage the crowd while playing can attest. And he's made his mark on tour, as the 11th-ranked player in the world. But he admitted the Olympics are a whole different experience, albeit one he's not quite familiar with yet.
"Everyone just got off the plane, just being near the Olympic park, you can kind of feel this energy in this place," he said. "To be honest, I don't know what to expect, as of right now. But it's going to be a thrilling experience, especially because it's my first one."
This is not a new experience for the Williams sisters. Venus is the most decorated player in Olympic tennis history with three gold medals (one singles, two doubles), while Serena is aiming to become the first player to win all four Grand Slams and Olympic singles gold in her career.
"When you're at tournaments and they announce your name and you have the word 'Olympian' behind you, it's so cool to hear,'' said Venus Williams. "It's not something you ever get over."
Serena Williams, who won her fifth Wimbledon women's singles title earlier this month, said she's excited to be back in London so soon.
"You usually have to wait 12 months to walk back on Centre Court and feel that moment that you feel,'' she said. "I'm going to be excited to have such a quick turnaround and get back on the grass and play.''
Sisters Venus and Serena Williams (Lynwood, Calif.) defeated Spain's Anabel Medina Garrigues and Virginia Ruano Pascual 6-2, 6-0 to win their second gold medal in women's doubles play at the Olympic Green Tennis Center Sunday afternoon. The pair also won gold at 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.
James Blake reacts after losing a point to Fernando Gonzalez. (Behrouz Mehri / Getty Images)
BEIJING -– The Olympic spirit has been broken for James Blake today at the Olympic Green Tennis Centre.
Throughout the tournament the former Harvard standout praised the virtues of what embodied the Olympic spirit. But following today’s hard-fought 4-6, 7-5, 11-9 semifinal loss to Chile’s Fernando Gonzalez, Blake left losing “a little faith in your fellow competitor.”
After holding serve to take s 9-8 lead in the deciding set, the eighth-seeded Blake hit a shot that was headed directly towards the 12th-seeded Gonzalez.
Gonzalez was close to the ball that landed out of bounds. However, it appeared the ball deflected off the handle of the Chilean’s racket and then fell out. The umpire ruled that the point in favor of Gonzalez, which enraged Blake.
Blake then raced to the chair umpire to plead his case. Replays show that the ball did graze the racket.
“Yeah, I hit a shot that hit Fernando’s racket and then went out,” said Blake. “The umpire didn’t see that it hit his racket. Playing in the Olympics, in what’s supposed to be considered a gentleman’s sport, that’s a time to call it on yourself. Fernando looked me square in the eye and didn’t call it.”
BEIJING – The Olympic spirit has been broken for James Blake.
During today’s hard-fought three-set loss to Chile’s Fernando Gonzalez of the semifinals of the Olympic tournament, Blake said Gonzalez violated a code as part of the gentleman portion of the game.
Serving at 8-9 of the final set, Gonzalez avoided a ball that was coming at him on the baseline. In the process, the ball apparently hit his racket a fell out.
The point went to Gonzalez as Blake raced to the chair umpire that the ball had hit the Chilean’s racket.
From that point on Blake was rattled and his chance to win his first major tournament ended with Gonzalez advancing to the finals with a 4-6, 7-5 11-9 victory.
Blake was attempting to be the first American to win a gold medal since 1996 when Andre Agassi won title during the Atlanta games.
Blake hadn’t beaten Gonzalez in his last six tries, last beating him in 2003 Paris Open
Harvard's James Blake scored his first career victory over Switzerland's Roger Federer and earned a berth in the semifinals of the 2008 Olympic Games tennis tournament. Blake, the No. 8 seed in the tournament, defeated No. 1 seed Federer 6-4, 7-6 (2).
Blake's semifinal opponent will be the winner of the match between France's Paul-Henri Mathieu and Fernando Gonzalez of Chile.
James Blake defeated Gilles Simon of France, 6-4 6-2, to advance in the men's singles action at the Olympic Green Tennis Center. He now moves to the quarterfinals, where he will face the tournament's No. 1 seed, Switzerland's Roger Federer.
Venus Williams scored a 6-3, 6-2 win over Victoria Azarenka of Belarus in women's singles play Wednesday evening at the Olympic Green Tennis Center. With the victory she advances to the quarterfinals, where she will face Li Na of China.
The Williams sisters recovered and advanced to the next round with a comeback victory against the Czechs 4-6, 7-5, 6-1.
BEIJING -- Marc Spears and I decided to take in some tennis today and the Williams sisters are down a set in the second round of doubles competition against the Czech team of Benesova-Vadisova.
BEIJING -- Lindsay Davenport (Palos Verdes, Calif.) and Liezel Huber (Cypress, Texas) won their first round women’s doubles match against Poland’s Klaudia Jans and Alicja Rosolska, 6-2, 6-1 at the Olympic Green Tennis Center Tuesday afternoon. Next up for the pair is winner of the match between Estonia's Maret Ani and Kaia Kanepi and Victoria Azarenka and Tatiana Poutchek of Belarus.
BEIJING -- Venus Williams advanced to the third round of the 2008 Olympic Games women's tennis tournament with a 6-1, 6-4 win over Iveta Benesova of the Czech Republic at the Olympic Green Tennis Center Tuesday afternoon. Her next opponent will be the winner of the Casey Dellacqua (Australia)-Victoria Azarenka (Belarus) match.
BEIJING -- Serena Williams (Lynwood, Calif.) advanced to the third round of women’s singles today when she defeated Samantha Stosur of Australia, 6-2, 6-0, in 44 minutes. Seeded fourth, Williams will meet No. 15 seed Alize Cornet of France in the Round of 16. Cornet defeated China’s Shuai Peng today, 6-2, 6-2.
No. 1 seeds Bob and Mike Bryan (Camarillo, Calif.) won their first round singles match over Mark Knowles and Devin Mullings of the Bahamas, 6-2, 6-1, today in 52 minutes. They will face either 2004 silver medalists Nicolas Kiefer and Rainer Schuttler of Germany or Austria’s Julian Knowle and Jurgen Melzer in the second round.
Jill Craybas (Providence, R.I.) lost her first round women’s singles match to No. 13 seed Patty Schnyder of Switzerland, 6-3, 6-2.
BEIJING -- American Natalie Coughlin just won the gold medal in the women's 100 backstroke. American Margaret Hoelzer earned the bronze.
BEIJING -- In her Olympic singles debut, Serena Williams (Lynwood, Calif.) defeated Olga Govortsova of Belarus, 6-3, 6-1 in the first round at the Olympic Green Tennis Centre. The match was suspended yesterday due to rain with Williams leading 6-3, 2-1. Williams won four straight games today to close out the match.
Williams' next opponent will be Samantha Stosur of Australia, a 6-3, 6-2 winner over Sara Errani of Italy in opening-round play.
BEIJING -- Former Harvard standout James Blake advanced to the second round of the tennis competition after defeating Australia's Chris Guucione 6-3, 7-6 (7-3) on Centre Court. He will next face the winner of the Dominik Hrbaty and Thomaz Bellucci match.