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Tennis: Isner happy to be shunted into spotlight

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

John Isner insists he is feeling no extra pressure as he spearheads American hopes at the US Open despite it being 10 years since Andy Roddick won the country's last Grand Slam men's title.

The 28-year-old giant is America's number one player and with Roddick, who was the champion in New York in 2003, now a year into retirement, it is the world number 17 who must shoulder the burden that his compatriot carried for so long.

His most recent campaign got off to a winning start on Tuesday with a 6-0, 6-2, 6-3 victory over Italy's Filippo Volandri, a player who hasn't won a hard court match on the main tour in four years.

Whether or not the organizers believe Isner can end the US jinx at the Grand Slams was in doubt when he was shunted off the premier Arthur Ashe court to the Grandstand arena to accommodate Roger Federer.

The Swiss star's first-round match had been rained out on Monday so Isner was the man to make way in the new schedule.

"It was fine. I feel like I'm probably a better player on Grandstand than I am Ashe, given that the actual court is smaller," Isner said.

"There is not enough room to run around out there. You know, it's not as windy. The conditions really suit me just fine. It's great playing on Ashe, but I was fine with the whole situation."

Isner's best performance at the US Open remains a run to the quarter-final in 2011 where he lost to Andy Murray.

But the 6'10" (2.08m) North Carolina native believes that the key to bettering that record -- and restoring national pride at America's home major where the European powers of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Murray dominate -- is to remain calm.

"I feel like Andy carried a bigger burden than a guy like myself. He was always, always in the spotlight," Isner said.

"Any time he lost a match, you know, he got a lot of bad press from it and whatnot. He carried the torch for so, so long.

"But I'm playing well and I'm enjoying what I'm doing. I don't really feel any extra pressure to perform well because I am currently the number one American."

Isner has endured a roller-coaster Grand Slam season at the majors.

He withdrew from the Australian Open with a knee injury, lost to Tommy Haas in the third round of the French Open after having saved 12 match points and then retired from the second round at Wimbledon with another knee injury.

His US hardcourt summer performances have been far more encouraging, however, with a title in Atlanta and runner-up spots at Washington to Juan Martin del Potro and at Cincinnati against Nadal.

"I have played a lot of matches so far this summer, and at certain points I have been pretty haggard, pretty tired," he added.

"But it's a very, very good problem to have when you can sort of manage your schedule and take time off to let your body heal. So I am very confident. When you win a lot, just naturally you become confident."

Isner faces France's Gael Monfils for a place in the last 32.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130827/tennis-isner-happy-be-shunted-spotlight