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By Erik Gudris

John Isner (July 16, 2013) -- For John Isner, it is good to be home.

After a start and stop season punctuated by several injuries, Isner is ready to build some momentum during the upcoming summer hard court season.

Speaking by phone from his home on behalf of the upcoming Citi Open in Washington, D.C., Isner is looking forward to putting his recent health woes behind him, including having to retire in his second round match at Wimbledon.

"It hasn't bothered me too much. I am a bit fortunate that it wasn't really serious," Isner said about the injury that forced him out of Wimbledon. "When it first happened, all I know is that the pain was pretty severe and I was bracing for a pretty bad outcome. But as it turns out everything is structurally fine in my left knee and the issue isn't even my knee. It's a quad issue, a muscle strain, pull or tear at the very top of my kneecap. So it's something I've been working on to get healthy and I feel like I've done a great job so far and look forward to putting it behind me."

Isner, who had a breakthrough run at the 2007 Citi Open, often plays his best tennis during the summer hard court season. Last year, he reached the semis of Toronto and followed up by winning the title in Winston-Salem. Isner again has a busy summer schedule planned with stops in Atlanta, Washington D.C., Montreal, Cincinnati and Winston-Salem.

But as far as this summer goes, Isner is not setting any goals for himself. He just wants to take it one match at a time.

"I haven't set any performance goals. I have had some time off this year, and the injuries I've had haven't been catastrophic and I haven't felt like I've missed a whole lot of of time. But I have missed pretty much two Grand Slams. It is disappointing that my body has let me down at two of the biggest events in tennis. But heading into this summer, my focus is to be 100 percent fit and healthy, which I am getting to, but as far as performance goals I haven't set anything. It's very cliche but I just try to compete at my hardest and try not to beat myself out there, which I feel like I've done a good job of recently. If I stay at a good solid even level out on the court and think things through out there, I know I am a tough out when I am in a good spot like that."

Isner admitted that he often plays his best tennis in the U.S. because of his familiarity with the locales of many of the events that are part of the US Open Series. In fact, the BB&T Atlanta Open is near where he went to college. The Winston-Salem Open is only a short drive away from his hometown in Greensboro, NC. But he realizes that he needs to start playing better overseas if he wants to boost his ranking in the future.

"The surfaces here (in the U.S.) do suit me very well. So I do feel the most relaxed in the States and from that I seem to play my best tennis."

The ongoing conversation about American men's tennis will only intensify as the summer hard court season gets underway. Isner, who burst onto the pro tour after a successful college career, is now at age 28 approaching veteran status in the next few years. Isner does keep tabs on the likes of Ryan Harrison, Rhyne Williams and Denis Kudla to name a few. But when he faces them on the court, he is always looking to win.

"I'm in touch with them and I know where these guys are kind of at. I just saw all three of those guys at Newport last week. I really like all those guys. But when I play against them I want to beat them very badly. I think it's good for them and guys like myself, Sam Querrey, James Blake and Mardy Fish to compete against these younger guys and try to stay ahead of them.

Isner, who recently posed in the buff for the "Body Issue" of ESPN Magazine, expected to get a lot of comments, especially from his fellow American players on the tour.

"The general reaction is that I've gotten a lot of crap from those guys. But I like to think it's because they wish they were in the magazine. But it's all in good fun. Overall I think the reviews have been mostly positive."

The Citi Open will be held from July 27 through Aug. 4 in Washington, D.C.

(Photo Credit: AP)


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