- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 21, 2010

JOHNS CREEK, GA. (AP) - John Isner wants to prove he’s more than a marathon man on the ATP tour.

Preparing for his first event since taking three days, 183 games and over 11 hours at Wimbledon to beat Nicolas Mahut of France, Isner has adjusted to a new public life.

“Yeah, but I really try to stay out of the spotlight,” Isner said Tuesday. “I don’t see myself as a celebrity at all.”

Maybe not, but Isner understands there are worst things to be known for. After all, what’s wrong with appearing on the Late Show with David Letterman, throwing out a ceremonial first pitch at Yankee Stadium and winning a made-for-TV award on ESPN?

Perhaps if Isner (IHZ-ner) had raised his hand for attention it would be different for the third-year professional. But as Isner sees it, he was just doing his job at Wimbledon.

In the strangest career twist he could imagine, Isner wondered if the tennis gods had tossed him into some kind of cruel kaleidoscope. The match began on a Tuesday, and after getting suspended twice because of darkness, it mercifully ended on a Thursday afternoon.

On the Wednesday night that followed the match’s second suspension, Isner slumped against his locker. He could barely move. His coach and trainer hovered nearby, offering encouragement, nutrition and a quick trip back to the hotel.

“This was just _ it just wouldn’t end. It was crazy,” Isner said. “I really thought it was a like dream. Out there, towards the end of that match, on the day we didn’t finish, it was like 50-all, 55-all, and I’m just thinking this can’t be real.”

Because it was so late, only two or three players still milled around the locker room.

“(Roger) Federer was one of them,” Isner said. “He just kind came up and laughed and gave me a pat on the back, so that was pretty cool.”

The next day carried the match to its conclusion of 980 points overall, 711 of which came in the fifth set with Mahut winning 365.

But Isner took the final one, which ended a run of 168 straight holds that began in the second set on Tuesday.

Now that he’s a month removed from the gauntlet, Isner acknowledges the epic match “is probably going to stick with me probably forever.” What the 6-foot-9 Isner wants, however, is to earn fans’ respect for other reasons, too.

“Now it’s up to me to really not make this a lasting image of my career,” he said. “Right now, I am in the top 20 in the world and I feel like I’m going to continue to keep climbing, and my ultimate goal is to be in the top 10 and contend at the really big tournaments.”

After receiving a first-round bye as the No. 2 seed at the Atlanta Tennis Championships, Isner will play a second-round match against Gilles Muller of Luxembourg on Wednesday.

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