John Isner’s 17-year singles career came to an end Thursday after his second-round loss to fellow American Michael Mmoh, 3-6, 4-6, 7-6 (3), 6-4, 7-6 (7), at the US Open. The 38-year-old isn’t quite done with tennis, as he still has doubles to play.
After the heartbreaker, which lasted just under four hours, he fought tears as he spoke in front of the packed crowd at Grandstand.
“This is why I’ve worked as hard as I have my whole life, to play in atmospheres like this,” Isner said. “I might not win them all, as we know, just like today. To play in front of this crowd and have the support I’ve had is pretty special.”
Fans knew they were witnessing a goodbye and gave him a standing ovation. The former world No. 8 stopped to wave before stepping through the exit.
Isner announced that he would be walking away from professional tennis after the US Open via social media on Saturday.
“This transition won’t be easy but I’m looking forward to every second of it with my amazing family,” he wrote. On Thursday, he cited a foot injury and discouragement from his performances as factors in his decision.
Standing 6-foot-10, Isner has left his mark on the sport. A standout even during his college career at the University of Georgia, he won the NCAA doubles title in 2005 and the team title in 2007. He went pro in 2007 and continued adding to the résumé in a way he didn’t even expect.
“I think I’ve overachieved. I never imagined myself having this much success for this long,” he said in his post-match interview. “If my results were better this year, I probably wouldn’t be speaking to you right now. That just hasn’t been the case.”
His list of achievements is expansive, including 16 ATP singles titles and a Wimbledon semifinal appearance. Isner was the top-ranked American man for eight seasons. He currently holds the ATP record for most career aces with 14,470, a number that went up by 48 during his final match.
He will be remembered for winning the the longest match in professional tennis history. During the first round at Wimbledon in 2010, he defeated Nicolas Mahut in a three-day match that lasted over 11 hours and needed 183 games.
His doubles partner, Jack Sock, also announced he was retiring at the after the tournament. They have won three Masters 1000-level titles together.