John Isner: Me and my racket
The 6'9" American - who won his second career title in Newport this month - knows what it's like to test his equipment to the max after playing the longest match in history
This season, you updated your frame from the Prince 03 Speedport White to the EXO3 Black 100. How’s it working out?
Prince gave me a new set of rackets and I wasn’t that keen to try them out at first, but now I like it a lot. It feels much like my old racket and it’s a very good frame.
So Prince leaned on you to adopt a new model?
I think they would have liked me to change. They gave me the rackets and I had them specified to my preferred weight and balance and whatnot. Then I started swinging it and I didn’t really notice any difference to the feel of my old racket. I try not to think about rackets too much – a lot of tennis players can be mental about them – but it’s a great racket and I’m going to keep getting comfortable with it.
How does the EXO3 Black 100 complement your playing style?
I feel like it’s very flexible and it has a lot of power in it, which definitely suits my game. I like to keep my racket pretty light so I can swing through it pretty quickly. Most players have heavier rackets than I do, but I definitely prefer mine.
It was the 03 Speedport White model that got you through 183 games during ‘that match’ at Wimbledon last year. How many times did you change rackets?
I changed a lot. It got to a certain point where I wasn’t even thinking about racket changing – I don’t know what I was thinking! I used the same racket for a long, long time – probably 40, 50 games or something like that. I guess the one I was using felt really good and that’s why I stuck with it!
What kind of state was that racket in after the match?
It was in good shape, actually. It just hit a lot of balls. We were on grass, of course, so if you bounce the racket it’s not going to crack or anything. It’s now in the Hall of Fame.
Do you find yourself bringing more frames to matches these days?
Usually I’ll bring six or seven strung rackets for a five-set match. That’s something I’ll continue to do because I won’t be in another match like that anytime soon!
Do you keep any old rackets as mementos?
No, at the end of the year I’ll give the ones I’m not using to friends or I’ll do something for charity. At my charity event during the last off-season I signed a couple of them to auction off. They’re not just sitting in my closet.
If not broken strings or a cracked frame, why else would you change a racket midway through a match?
It’s just the tension of the strings. I don’t necessarily break a lot of strings in a match. With newer balls, you want to get a tighter racket – one that hasn’t been used. Some players switch rackets every ball change but I just go on feel.
What strings and tensions do you use?
I use polyester, usually around 60lbs.
What’s the grip size?
Four and 5/8ths.
Do you use vibration dampeners?
No, I don’t like the way [my racket] feels with one. I do like the 'ping' noise off the racket, but eventually you get used to it and don’t hear it anyway.
You’ve smashed the odd racket in the past, do you feel sheepish afterwards?
No, it feels good! Sometimes it’s necessary to get the frustrations out and I think it can help me play better. I don’t crack too many rackets though