PARIS (Reuters) - John Isner is a rare breed, a male American tennis player who enjoys getting his socks dirty on European claycourts.
The 16th seed beat Italian baseliner Andreas Seppi 7-5 6-2 6-3 at the French Open on Tuesday to join compatriots Steve Johnson and Jack Sock in the second round.
Three survivors from the first round of the men’s singles at Roland Garros is about par for the course these days for the Americans — such is their lack of love for the red dirt.
But 30-year-old Isner, who once took claycourt king Rafa Nadal to five sets at Roland Garros, will not have a bad word said about the surface he finds helpful despite a 2.07-metre frame that looks better-equipped for bouncy hardcourts.
“A lot is said about clay and how it’s a defensive surface,” said the big-serving Isner who reached the quarter-finals at the Madrid Masters this month.
“It’s sort of I would say a misconception. I think clay is a very good attacking surface,” he told reporters.
“A guy like Rafa, he plays great defense but knocks the cover off the ball. He is the greatest clay-court player of all-time. I’m a completely different animal,” said Isner.
“My serve is going to play a part no matter what the surface is and is going to keep me in the match. So I’m comfortable on clay.
“I’ve played pretty well over here in Europe, which is nice. I’ve had some bad European swings before so I’m feeling good now.”
Sock is also comfortable on clay while 17-year-old newcomer Frances Tiafoe says it is his favorite surface so there is a shift in attitude in the U.S. where hardcourts usually dominate.
“This clay is great,” said Isner who next faces Frenchman Jeremy Chardy. “There really aren’t many bad bounces.
“You can slide through the court very well. It’s why it’s one of our Grand Slams. It’s a really good surface.”
Sock would agree after dismantling Bulgarian 10th seed Grigor Dimitrov in straight sets.
Editing by Tony Jimenez