Tennis

Isner moving up in rankings

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HOUSTON (AP)

John Isner is starting to live up to expectations.

Isner has soared to the No. 10 world ranking this year with victories over three of the top players in the world. He arrived at River Oaks Country Club on Tuesday to begin preparations for the U.S. men's clay court championship.

''I'd like to think I'm a nightmare to play,'' Isner said. ''I kind of take away their rhythm. I'm going to hit a lot of winners and I'm also going to make mistakes. I'm trying to not let those bother me. Over the course of a match, I'd like to think my style is going to win out.''

Isner beat No. 3 Roger Federer in the first round of Davis Cup play. He upset No. 1-ranked Novak Djokovic in the semifinals at the Indian Wells Masters, and upended then-No. 6 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France.

''A lot of guys out here playing are rhythm players,'' Isner said. ''They want to get into a groove over the course of a match and that's what I don't want to give them.''

Isner's performance against France advanced the Americans to the Davis Cup semifinals against Spain.

''I'm a much more confident player,'' Isner said. ''To be able to compete in this game you have to be confident and that's what I have on my side right now. I know it can come and go very easily, too. But right now I'm very confident in my ability and I think I've proved that throughout the course of 2012.''

Confidence was his ally against Djokovic.

''I believed I could win,'' Isner said. ''I enjoyed the moment. I'd never beaten the No. 1 player in the world. I beat the No. 1 player in the world, who over the past 16 months has dominated the game.''

Beating Federer also was a big step forward for Isner, who started the year ranked No. 18.

''That was a great win for me and I played it the right way,'' Isner said. ''That's when I realized that's how I have to play.

Isner's ascension has also created attention.

''I can see why, I have played well so far this year,'' Isner said. ''People have seen that when I'm playing the right way and playing well, I'm pretty tough to beat. It's up to me to be more consistent at that level and I know I'm getting there.

''I still think my best tennis is two or three years ahead of me.''

Isner faced high expectations coming out of the University of Georgia.

''I wasn't ready for it then but now, I want people to expect a lot of me,'' Isner said. ''Once you get up to top 10 in the world, people are going to expect a lot of you. I like it, I relish it.

''I want to be that guy for American tennis. I don't want to be content to be No. 10 in the world. I want to keep on climbing.''

Isner is seeded second behind No. 9 ranked Mardy Fish and will play his first match on Thursday.

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