John Isner is just one win away from completing an unlikely defence of his Miami Open title. He will have his work cut out against the three time champion Roger Federer, who has made it back-to-back finals in Masters 1000 events having lost the other week to Dominic Thiem in Indian Wells.
There’s been a common theme in Isner’s matches this week – tiebreaks. Other than winning one set 7-5 against Albert Ramos Vinolas, he has won every set in a tiebreak. That includes two in the semi finals against youngster Felix Auger Aliassime. He had to come from a break down on both occasions, taking advantage of the Canadian’s nerves in serving out both sets. “I’m just finding myself pretty calm in those situations. Maybe it’s a little bit mental. I’m definitely playing my best tennis when I have been in that situation this week, there is no doubt.” Isner said on those tiebreaks this week.
Federer had it much easier in his win over Denis Shapovalov, beating the 20th seed 6-2 6-4 to move into the final. His 49% first serve percentage has to be one of his worst in a long time but it didn’t matter at all with just 2 points dropped on first serve and 8 overall. “I enjoyed it. I think I played very well. I had to. Because I think when you let Denis play, he’s got some serious power, and he gets rhythm going. He can really put you in uncomfortable situations,” Federer said on the win. “So I think I did well, and I’m very happy how I played.”
Federer performs strongly against big servers and his record against Isner is no different. He is 5-1 against the American but did lose their last meeting at the Paris Masters back in 2015. “I know what to expect – that he will not miss many serves. He’s got an amazing serve. One of the best in the game, forever. It’s really hard to play against him,” Federer said.
Isner will remain in the top 10 after this unlikely run, hoping to a cap off a great 12 months late in his career. “I believe personally that any tournament I enter I can win because of how disruptive I can be and because of how well I can serve at times. I’m not surprised that I’m sitting here back in the finals again.” he said. With his delivery on key points this week, Isner is more than capable of springing a shock against Federer. The Swiss remains the comfortable favourite but that once unstoppable aura that surrounds him does fade with each final loss.
Prediction – John Isner in three sets