Mate’s shock death breaks tennis star’s heart
AS HE he walked off the court after losing to Novak Djokovic at the ATP Finals this week, John Isner earned of the death of his best friend.
The American and his mate Kyle Morgan have been described as "inseparable".
The grief-stricken star fought on and played Marin Cilic and Alexander Zverev, losing all three of his matches at the season-ending round robin tournament in London.
He was beaten 7-6 6-3 by talented German Zverev on Saturday (AEDT).
Any chances of the 33-year-old enjoying his week in London were shattered earlier in the week.
The circumstances around the sudden death of 35-year-old Morgan are still unknown.
Morgan was Isner's strength coach and the pair were housemates with an "inseparable bond".
In an emotional Instagram post, the world No.10 wrote: "RIP Kyle. It's hard to explain how much I loved you and how instrumental you were in making me who I am today.
"My heart and everyone who knew you is absolutely broken. You touched so many lives in the best possible way.
"You were a stud Florida Gator football player, me a Georgia Bulldog tennis player. Despite our crazy differences, we forged an inseparable bond.
"You were the most knowledgeable strength coach ever and the years we spent in the gym together allowed me to compete at the highest level. You were the best damn chef I've ever seen. I will miss so much the wings we'd cook together on NFL Sunday.
"More than anything, you were a friend, the best friend I could ever ask for. Kyle Steven Morgan, I love you bro. Gone but never forgotten."
The American personalised his match shoes by writing "KM" in big, bold letters. A small but personal touch to his late friend.
Speaking after his second match, a narrow three-set defeat to Marin Cilic, Isner said: "When I left college, I worked out exclusively with Kyle for probably seven years. That's four, five times a week for seven years. We lived together as well.
"We were certainly very close. It's devastating not just for me but for a whole bunch of people. He was a fantastic guy."
It was, of course, a difficult week both on and off the court but speaking after his third and final match, Isner tried to remain upbeat about his debut at the season-ending tournament.
Following his loss to Zverev, Isner said: "I would say it's definitely a positive experience. This is my first ATP Finals. I also know I'm not getting any younger but I do want to try to get back here next year.
"It was a little bit tough to deal with that (Morgan's death). I don't think that had any negative effect on my play. I just wish I could have played a little bit better.
"But I don't think it had anything to do with stuff that happened outside of this event for me. It was very tough, for sure."
Qualifying for the ATP Finals, albeit thanks to withdrawals from Rafael Nadal and Juan Martin Del Potro, is testament to the year Isner has had.
He won two tournaments this year, a fifth Atlanta Open in six years and a first Masters 1000 crown in Miami.
In September he became a dad for the first time when daughter Hunter Grace was born. She arrived nine months after he tied the knot and married jewellery designer Madison McKinley.
He added: "I think it's definitely a life-changing moment for myself and my wife.
"For me professionally, I think it can definitely help going forward.
"Prior to our daughter being born, I think getting married is another big step.
"That definitely settles things down personally. It was the perfect timing for all of it.
"Everything has gone pretty fluidly in my personal life, so I think that certainly helps.
"That's why I've at times this year played remarkably well. I'm looking forward to more of that next year."
This article originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced with permission