One Dimensional Players

Before playing this last Sunday’s ATP final in Washington, D.C., Jimmy Arias (standing on a box) interviewed the two finalists: 6’10” John Isner and 6’8” Juan Martin del Potro … and their comments were telling.

Jimmy first asked big-serving Isner, “John, you have lost to del Potro all three times you have played him so far. What do you need to do differently to beat him?”

Isner’s answer was, “I have to play my same game; just do it better.”


When Arias next interviewed del Potro, he asked him, “How do you play a big guy and big server like Isner?” His answer was much, much better: “I have to figure a way to return his serve.”

John Isner is an example of a “one dimensional player,” who is not ready or willing to change his strategy to fit his opponent. Think of American James Blake, whose strategy was to “hit hard, harder, and hardest” all the time. He was unwilling to use his great athletic ability to adapt to the situation. And thus, never really lived up to his potential.

So too with Isner.

While he won the first set (the first time he had ever taken a set from del Potro), it was primarily because the Argentinian started slowly, having finished his semi-final after midnight on Saturday.

But in the second set, del Potro stood waaaaay behind the baseline to return Isner’s hard and kick serves. He got them back in play; and once into the rally, easily dominated Big John in the last two sets and won the title for the third time.

One player adapted and the other just tried “more of the same.”

P.S. and why isnt Mr. Federer playing this week in Canada? Is this the beginning of the end?

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2 thoughts on “One Dimensional Players

  1. Interesting post! I think as we get older, we understand the importance of strategy vs one dimension out of necessity. I hope John will learn strategy as I know it could propel him into one of the top spots on the ATP tour. Nevertheless, I always watch John Isner and root for him as he is such a fantastic tennis player. This match was tough as I also enjoy del Potro’s tennis so much. It was a win-win match to watch for me!

    Me too! George

  2. George — I would suggest that with these two guys in particular, the ‘one dimension’ you’re surely referring to is VERTICAL! Marc

    Marc – Very! george

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