Sam Querrey and John Isner

Sorry, just getting my feet wet at Indian Well so I missed Novak Djokovic going down tamely to Ivan Ljubicic today on an outer court. I was riveted to the Rafael Nadal and John Isner match.

See that image above? Isner (on the right) is three inches taller than Sam Querrey but look how much longer his limbs are. I’d love to see a tale of the tape comparison between those two like they do for boxers. And I’m curious. Who’ll go farther – Isner or Querrey?

First, let’s look at the match. Long about 5-5 in the first set I’m surprised by how much Isner goes for his shots and how good his forehand is. Here’s Rafa’s take on his game:

He has good movement around the court. He can improve his volley but he volleys well and he has a very good forehand so it’s gonna be really difficult to stop him if he keeps improving.

Okay, so I’ll give Isner the edge over Querrey for movement. With Isner serving at 5-5 in the first set, Rafa tightened the noose a bit. He hit a deep return that Isner flubbed and then hit a net cord that drew Isner to the net whereupon Rafa passed him. Bad luck but it’s all in the timing at the top level of tennis and Rafa is a master at it.

Isner suffered through the usual lull after a first set loss – why is it that a tall tall player hanging his head looks so mournful compared to a shorty? – but he managed to hold on long enough for Rafa to play a horrible game in the fourth game of the second set to go up a break. As someone in the media center blurted out, “Blimey.”

Isner took the second set but lost his serve early in the third set and here’s the problem: Isner is ranked #48 in converting break points while Querrey is #10. Isner couldn’t put enough pressure on Rafa to break him and when he did try, he repeatedly overhit. Match to Rafa in three sets.

Querrey has played Rafa three times and every time he’s taken a set off him. Querrey beat Isner for the Memphis title this year but Isner beat Querrey here in the third round. Querrey is probably the better clay court player but Isner has already passed Querrey for career high ranking by two places at #20.

They look like twins to me and given the current state of tennis in the U.S. and its long in the tooth top players, maybe the question isn’t who’ll be better but do either of these players have a chance of matching Andy Roddick’s run at the top? And can either bring home a slam?

If they’d both turned up at the same time Roddick came along, yes, they’d have a chance because they have better all court games than Roddick and only slightly worse serves. I’ll give them a few slam semifinals on hard court and a some hard court Masters titles but there are too many all court players with incredible reflexes for me to give them any more.

I’m gonna say that Roddick and James Blake will be replaced by two players who’ll consistently hang around between #10 and #20 but they won’t touch their forebears combined record for appearances in the final eight at the year end tournament.

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