John Isner is a massive Carolina Hurricanes fan, and the American No. 1 loves hockey in general. But the 15-time ATP Tour champion has signed as a free agent with an additional team, at least for this week.

At the Coupe Rogers on Wednesday, Montreal Canadiens Senior Vice President for Public Affairs and Communications Paul Wilson presented Isner with his own Canadiens jersey, customised with his name and the number ‘1’ on the back. Although the Hurricanes will always be the American’s favourite team, Isner was thrilled to be made an honourary Canadien.

“I think it’s fantastic, especially in a city like this that just loves their sports,” Isner told ATPTour.com. “They support this tournament so incredibly well. The men, we come here every other year and they get really, really excited about it. But this city’s true love is the Montreal Canadiens, so [I’m] very honoured to wear that.”

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That’s not the only reason this ATP Masters 1000 tournament has been special, though. Isner has had two NHL players in Montreal supporting him: current Vancouver Canuck Antoine Roussel and recently-retired Alexandre Burrows.

“It’s very cool. I think in general hockey players really enjoy tennis. I enjoy hockey so much, so through that whole connection I’ve gotten to know a lot of very cool NHL players, a lot of them that I call my friends now,” Isner said. “Same thing here in Montreal, I have two buddies here… I’ve gotten to know them pretty well and they’re here supporting, so it’s very cool.”

Isner battled through a tight first-round match on Tuesday against Aussie Jordan Thompson 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(6) after two hours and 19 minutes. And on Wednesday he’ll face Chilean Cristian Garin. It doesn’t hurt that he has professional athletes to motivate him in his corner.

“Those guys are the toughest of the tough. Having a guy like Antoine sit and watch me play, I tell myself I need to stay focussed and stay as tough as possible out here because that is what these guys do all the time,” Isner said. “They’re taking pucks to the faces, they’re throwing gloves around. We’re not playing a contact sport. Yes, it’s hot out there and it’s tough, but I need to show as much mental resolve on the court as I can. I think I did a little in my match, so having him there helped.”



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