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John Isner goes from Lobsters to London

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  July 24, 2012 12:01 PM

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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.''

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