John Isner

The tennis star teamed up with fellow pro Andy Roddick to raise more than $75,000 for UNC Lineberger, where Isner’s mother, Karen, was treated for colon cancer.

“Those people at that hospital,” Isner said from center court before the match, “well, they saved my mother’s life.”

John Isner was standing on the tennis court in his native Greensboro when he spoke, barely getting the words out before breaking down, lifting the collar of his sweatshirt to wipe tears from his eyes.

It was a touching moment in a day built around fun. 

Event host John Isner, UNC Lineberger’s Eli Jordfald and Ben Calvo, MD, John’s mother Karen Isner, and Andy Roddick

December 7th marked the Fourth Annual Ebix Charity Challenge benefiting UNC Lineberger and hosted by John, the No. 14 ranked player in the world. Joining him was retired former world No. 1 Andy Roddick and pro-turned-broadcaster Justin Gimelstob. The morning began with a sell-out youth clinic attended by 76 local boys and girls who got to hit tennis balls with Isner and Roddick. In the afternoon, Isner defeated Roddick 6-4, 6-3 in an exhibition match — equal parts banter and tennis — at UNCG’s Fleming Gymnasium in front of more than 1,200 spectators.

The Charity Challenge raised more than $75,000 for UNC Lineberger where Isner’s mother, Karen, was treated for colon cancer, beating a two-time battle with the disease. Karen’s surgeon, Dr. Ben Calvo, spoke from courtside and thanked John and his family for serving as terrific ambassadors for the cancer center all over the world.

Shortly after the event, ATP World Tour announced that Isner and his cause, UNC Lineberger, was one of nine in the world to be selected as recipient of the prestigious ATP ACES for Charity Programme in 2014 and will receive a grant of $15,000.

Karen Isner, now cancer-free for seven years remarked, “All along, this annual event was John’s idea. We’re very blessed to have an opportunity to give back to UNC Lineberger in a big way. They’re amazing people, and John’s in a position to do so much good. I’m so proud of him. He’s using what he’s achieved to do a lot of good.”