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Isner: I gotta keep plugging away

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Originally published on: 11/03/13 00:00

Isner, who currently sits at No.15 in the world rankings, is projected to drop outside the top 20 after losing his first match of the BNP Paribas Open to 32-year-old Lleyton Hewitt 6-7(6) 6-3 6-4. The American No.1 had 600 points to defend in the Californian desert after reaching the final last year and his record this season now falls to 6-6 after the defeat.

"It was a tough match,” said a deflated Isner. “I knew it was going to be. Lleyton is such a good competitor. I needed to play very well to win today, and I don't feel like I necessarily did that. It's very disappointing. _ь"I believe things will get better. As long as I continue to believe that, then I just hope that things will get better, and I do believe that they will. Just gotta keep plugging away."

Isner, who fell in five sets at all four Grand Slam tournaments last year, hasn’t always felt comfortable in the limelight since becoming American No.1, something he touched on after the loss.

“I just felt more comfortable early on in a tournament [when] the lights [were] not on me all the time. It’s a little bit tough. But I’d rather be in this position than not. I guess I have a little taste of how these guys always on stadium feel.”

US hopes now rest on Sam Querrey and to a lesser extent Mardy Fish, who is playing in his first tournament since pulling out of the US Open last September with heart complications.

Querrey, who faces Australian Marinko Matosevic for a place in the last 16 where he would meet the winner of world No.1 Novak Djokovic or Grigor Dimitrov, will likely need to reach the quarter-finals to break the top 20, while Mardy Fish, who currently sits at No.32, will need to make the final.

If both players fail to return to the top 20 at the end of the tournament it will mark the first time since computerised rankings came into effect in 1973 that no American will be among the world’s best 20 players.

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