Like he has done so many times before, John Isner went the distance Thursday but could not stave off the end of his singles career.
The 38-year-old, who announced on Aug. 23 he would retire at the end of his run at this year's U.S. Open, dropped a five-set thriller in the second round against fellow American Michael Mmoh, who pulled off the 3-6, 4-6, 7-6 (3), 6-4, 7-6 (7) comeback in New York.
"This is why I worked as hard as I have my whole life to play in atmospheres like this," Isner said while addressing a crowd that was supportive during and after his match. "Of course I may not win them all, as we know. But to play in front of this crowd and have the support I had was pretty special."
An emotional Isner, who slumped in his chair with a towel over his head after the match, won the first two sets and went into a tiebreaker in the third set, but could not find the finishing touch. Mmoh did not drop a point on his serve during the third-set tiebreaker.
Isner was leading 5-4 in the fifth set on Mmoh's serve and had match point at 30-40, but Mmoh rallied to win the point. The fifth-set tie breaker was tied 7-7 before Mmoh reeled off three consecutive points, the final two on Isner's serve.
Isner lost in three hours and 57 minutes despite serving 48 aces.
"Yeah, it's tough," said Isner, who is still alive in doubles at the U.S. Open with partner Jack Sock. "I like to think I work as hard as I can."
Known for a booming serve, Isner has played in the two longest matches in Grand Slam history. In the first round at Wimbledon in 2010, Isner defeated Nicolas Mahut of France in an 11-hour, 5-minute that Isner finished off 70-68 in the fifth set. In the semifinals at Wimbledon in 2018, Isner fell to Kevin Anderson of South Africa in a 26-24 fifth set that is the longest match ever at Centre Court.
Isner, a former University of Georgia star and one of the tallest ever players in professional tennis at 6-foot-10, earned his highest ever World Tennis Ranking in 2018, at No. 8 (finishing 10th).
He finished as the No. 1 American in the rankings eight different times (2012-16, 2018-20) and finished top 20 in the world for 10 consecutive years (2010-19).
Isner owns 16 ATP Tour singles titles, including six at Atlanta and four at Newport (both tournament records). He also won eight doubles titles.
In other second-round matches Thursday, No. 6 seed Jannik Sinner defeated Lorenzo Sonego 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 in an all-Italian match, and German No. 12 seed Alexander Zverev got past countryman Daniel Altmaier 7-6 (1), 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.
England's Jack Draper defeated No. 17 seed Hubert Hurkacz of Poland 6-2, 6-4, 7-5. Mmoh is set to face Draper in the third round.
England's Andy Murray was eliminated 6-3, 6-4, 6-1 by No. 19 seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria.
—Field Level Media