Courtesy Getty Images

Let’s start with something that doesn’t make headlines in competitive sports. John Isner is a really nice guy. He was nice enough to sit down with me a day before the US Open to talk about his 20s.

Here’s something else that doesn’t make headlines: even tennis at the highest professional level, with all of its accolades, feels like a job. John acknowledges how fortunate he is to play tennis for a living, but stresses that the international schedule, the practices are tough. And he looks pretty worn out when I see him, after a signing with crazed fans at the Prince store in New York.

Just like any other job, you have good days and bad days. You win some and you …etc. If you’ve ever played tennis you know that it’s a job that about a thousand people in the world can ever be really be good at. Even fewer of those players can sustain the endurance needed to play the longest professional match in history. John played Nicolas Mahut in a total of 11 hours and 5 minutes over three days at Wimbledon, and eventually killed it.

I know, I know, John is 6’10–I’m sitting on two pillows to look  at him at eye level. That must give him an edge, a faster/longer sprint to the ball? As John describes it, he had to adapt to his growth spurt over time, it didn’t necessarily feel like an advantage right away. Being a gangly tall high school kid seems to have been more than a challenge. John refers to the defining period of his early 20s at the University of Georgia, when he finally stopped growing in and began to grow out. For the first time, he tapped into the complete power of his body,  his height and honed it. He developed a sense of self and of future potential.

Post college, John took the path least travelled. Most experts in the field would maintain that you can’t go pro after college, that it’s too late. No one in the current top 20 spent four years in college–no one but John.

John decided to go pro anyhow, and once on the circuit  had a meteoric rise. He began playing pro in 2007 with a world ranking of #839 and rose to #193 after just six weeks. Now 28, John is ranked 14 in the world. He doesn’t spend too much time thinking about it. Or so he says.

By the end of the interview, Danielle had emerged from behind the camera and was chatting to John about monday night wrestling–a subject which seemed riveting to everyone but me. We were all relieved we’d moved on from talking about tennis. After all what 20something wants to talk about his job non-stop?

Watch John Isner discuss his 20s here…

Laura is the founder of She decided to create an online community to share those universal 20to30 moments that never made it onto CVs, bios or wikipedia entries.

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