John Isner had just two wins on the season entering Miami. He leaves as the latest Masters champion, the third first-time winner in the last three after stunning favorite and world No. 5 Alexander Zverev 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-4 in the final match on Key Biscayne.
After 12 ATP 250 titles after three Masters runner-ups, this was Isner’s biggest career title.
“To win like that in front of a crowd like that, with that atmosphere, you can’t replicate moments like that,” said Isner. “It was absolutely amazing.
“This tournament has so much history. All the best players have played here thought the years. For Sascha and I to share the court in the last men’s singles match ever here at this tournament is amazing. I never thought I would be in this moment considering how I was playing coming into this event.”
It was advertised as a match dominated by the serves, but early on that wasn’t the case. With nerves playing role as both were in their first Miami final, break point were there for the taking. It was the American who held the chances as Zverev saved three break points in his first service game.
After the two exchanged more break chances in the fifth and sixth games, they began to settle into a serving rhythm.
In the ensuing tiebreak, that fell apart. Zverev got an early mini-break for 3-2 but then lost both his serves. Isner did worse, losing his two, the second via a double fault.
Zverev finally capitalized taking the first set.
With Isner wary and not hitting through the court as he had against Juan Martin del Potro, the second began with both guys still in a serving groove. But almost out of nowhere at 4-all, Zverev came unglued giving Isner the break.
The 32-year-old saved two break points – the second with an incredible rally – to force the decider.
In the third, with Isner gaining his second wind, a nervy Zverev saved another break chance at 1-all and four more at 2-all, but at 4-all he finally surrendered under the pressure and Isner broke then went ace-ace-ace to win it.
“It’s incredible,” said Isner who finished the tournament with 53 straight holds of serve. “I mean, to come back after a pretty disappointing first set, a first set I had certainly some chances in and some break points. I was serving at 403 in the tie-break and lost four straight points. At that point I was actually exhausted. Somewhere along in the second set I found a second wind and I felt so much better in the second set and the third set than I did in the first.”
And that’s how the last singles match on Key Biscayne played out. After 32 years, the tournament moves about 20 minutes north to Hard Rock Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins.
Isner collected his 13th title while Zverev drops his first Masters final. And John returns to his previous career-high ranking of No. 9.
Zverev, who turns 21 later this month, suffered his first loss to Isner in four meetings and didn’t bring his best stuff for the final. His last title came in August in Canada.
“I think I missed more shots today than I did the whole tournament,” said Zverev. “I played bad from the baseline. But, it’s not easy against John, because you always feel the pressure that if you get broken you’re not going to win the set. That’s maybe a factor, but I had a lot of mistakes today that I didn’t do the whole week.
“But he played great. He played very well from the baseline and he returned very well. Obviously there’s his serve, but we don’t need to talk about the serve. I had a pretty good tactic and a gameplan, which, if you just miss, it doesn’t matter. It was not about that. It was more about me not finding a rhythm.”
Isner also becomes the first American man to win Miami since Andy Roddick in 2010. And extra $1.34 million isn’t bad either.
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