It is going to be some week for John Isner, as three of his favorite things in life coincide: tennis, the Carolina Panthers and his Mom.
Isner, the No. 1 tennis player in America, brings his charity tennis event to Charlotte for the first time on Thursday. The Isner Charity Challenge will also feature former world No. 1 Andy Roddick and the Bryan brothers doubles team in exhibition matches at UNC Charlotte’s Halton Arena as the 49ers’ home basketball court is turned into a tennis court for one night.
“We usually have this event in Greensboro, my hometown,” Isner said. “But Charlotte is a little bigger market and since the event has grown some, we wanted to try a little bigger venue. So I’m really excited about it.”
The tennis exhibition starts at 7:30 p.m. During the day, Isner and his famous friends will hold a tennis clinic for kids and adults at Olde Providence Racquet Club in Charlotte. Tickets for the various events start at $35 and are available at IsnerCharityChallenge.com or at the Halton Arena box office.
All proceeds benefit the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, which the Isner family credits for saving Karen Isner’s life. In its first five years, the event has raised approximately $200,000 for the cancer center.
Karen Isner, John’s mom, had serious bouts with colon cancer in 2004 and 2007 and was treated extensively at UNC on both occasions. She still lives in Greensboro, where John went to high school.
“He’s the youngest of our three boys, so in some respects John is always going to be the baby,” Karen Isner said.
Isner, 30, is also a 6-foot-10 serving demon who still talks to his mother every day. He was a freshman playing at the University of Georgia when she was first diagnosed with cancer.
“She is my inspiration and has been for many years,” Isner said. “I saw what she went through firsthand and how difficult it was.”
Isner will play Roddick in singles during the exhibition at Halton Arena and he and Roddick will team against the Bryan brothers in a doubles match. It is possible Roddick’s wife – Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover model and actress Brooklyn Decker, who grew up in Matthews – will show up as well.
“If you want to see good tennis, you can absolutely come out and watch that, but you also get to interact with us,” Isner said. “Andy is really funny. I can promise you that you will go away with a big smile on your face and at the same time you’re contributing to an unbelievable cause.”
So that’s next Thursday. But what about next Sunday, when Isner’s beloved Panthers play Denver in Super Bowl 50 in California?
Isner is in a quandary about that one. Isner, Roddick and the Bryan brothers are obligated to charity events Thursday through Saturday (the other two are in Nashville or Atlanta). And right after the Super Bowl he is supposed to be playing tennis in Argentina.
“So I still don’t know what I’m going to do,” Isner said. “I just finished all that travel from Australia. But going to the Super Bowl and watching my favorite team play – of course I don’t want to miss that. So I’m going to decide pretty soon.”
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John Isner recently reached the round of 16 at the Australian Open before losing to David Ferrer, and while playing in Australia he also got up early to watch both Carolina playoff games.
“The Seattle game was a bit harder to see,” Isner said. “I woke up at 4:30 a.m. to make sure I would be ready (for what was a 5 a.m. kickoff in Australia). But it turns out they show absolutely zero of the pregame show in Australia, which I didn’t know. So I had the TV onto the channel I was 98 percent the game was on. It’s five minutes before kickoff. And they’re showing a ‘Married with Children’ rerun!
“So I’m freaking out. I get out my laptop and go to NFL.com, thinking I’m going to have to try and stream the game. But sure enough, ‘Married with Children’ ends and here comes the game. So I got to watch it after all on TV, and the next week against Arizona I didn’t have to panic about it.”
To buy tickets to Isner’s charity tennis event at Halton Arena Thursday night, go to IsnerCharityChallenge.com. Tickets start at $35.