Tom Gugliotta and John Isner faced off in their respective sports.
By: Michael Rardon: Atlanta Tennis Championships
John Isner finally found someone his height, other than Ivo Karlovic, to play tennis against when he faced former NBA and Atlanta Hawks star, Tom Gugliotta during the Atlanta Tennis Championships.
This was the first time the two had met, but Isner admitted that as a kid growing up in North Carolina, Gugliotta was one of his favourite players during his years at North Carolina State. Isner was thrilled to have the opportunity to meet one of his childhood idols and compete against him in his own sport and on Gugliotta’s own turf, the basketball court.
The two started out on the tennis court and after they warmed-up, they played a few games. Gugliotta was fortunate to have some experience on the court; he plays weekly at a club in Atlanta, and during his NBA days he and some other players occasionally used tennis for cross-training workout and to improve their footwork. This preparation paid off as he was able to rally with Isner.
Despite Isner having one of the fastest serves in the world, the former NBA star was able to put the first few returns in play. After losing the first point, Gugliotta hit a perfect backhand passing shot down the line. He followed that up on the next point by hitting a ball that rolled off the net cord for a winner to go up 30-15 in the game. Feeling the pressure, Isner decided it was time to turn up the service speed and dialed in for a few big serves to escape the game and get a hold. Using his natural athleticism Gugliotta was able to stay in long rallies with Isner, but in the end Isner won the few games they played.
In their post match interview, Isner said that he was impressed with Gugliotta’s game. Though he was having a slightly off serving day, he smiled and said that he considered Gugliotta’s one-handed backhand to be a "major weapon".
After being defeated on the tennis court, Gugliotta was ready to get a little revenge as the two moved to his territory on the basketball court. Growing up Isner played basketball in high school and considers himself to be a respectable player on the court. The two played an adapted version of "PIG", using "ATL" for the Atlanta Hawks. Both players struggled to find their range from distance early, but Gugliotta managed to find his form first and jumped out to a quick "A-T" lead. Isner responded hitting multiple shots in a row to keep himself in the competition and was able to close the gap. However, Isner missed his final shot giving Gugliotta the "A-T-L" victory.
Both players wanted to win the two events, but were happy to put on a show. The two were laughing and joking around throughout the two events, enjoying the opportunity to compete against each other.