By Jane Voigt
March 30, 2018 — Maybe it’s karma. Or appropriate. Or fate. Whatever you’d like to label it, an American, John Isner, will be one finalist in Sunday’s men’s singles championship match on the last day Crandon Park on Key Biscayne will host the Miami Open. What could be better? Well, that he wins the title, which will be his first Masters 1000 singles victory and that American Sloane Stephens wins the women’s singles title over Jelena Ostapenko tomorrow.
Dream we can. Dream we will.
But it’s no dream, though, that Isner played probably the best tennis of his life today to beat the hottest player one tour — according to Isner — Juan Martin del Potro 6-1, 7-6(2). When niceties had been exchanged at the net, Isner wrote on the ESPN camera lens, “Keep pounding.”
And pound he did. Aces are not foreign to the six-foot-ten inch Isner. He served 13 in this match. However, the consistency with which he held serve was noteworthy. He won 84% of points on his first serve, and 75% on his second serve. He won 100% of his service games. And, he won 22% of his return games. Del Potro won none of his return games.
“Serves, forehands, backhands, drop volleys: Don’t think Isner can play much better than that,” Steve Tignor of Tennis.com wrote on Twitter.
Coming in to Miami Isner’s record was a paltry 2-6. Today it’s 7-6, with a bye in round one.
“Key was to keep holding my serve,” Isner told ESPN on court, following the match.
But his play, especially his forehand, was off the charts. He hit a cross-court forehand winner clocked at 117 m.p.h.
“Oh, man … I haven’t hit a forehand that hard in a long time,” he told ESPN, laughing. Ironically, he feathered a drop volley to win the match. Big man. Soft hands.
Del Potro was trying to win back-to-back titles at back-to-back Masters tournaments: Indian Wells and Miami. Those in that elite category include Boris Becker, Jim Courier, Michael Chang, Pete Sampras, Lleyton Hewitt, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Unfortunately for the Argentine, his winning streak, 15-0, came to an end today.
“I played well today, played a good tournament, will go home with good things to celebrate,” Del Potro said in his after-match press conference, UBI Tennis reported. “John deserved today.”
“First set was pretty easy,” Isner said on court. “He’s understandably tired. I knew the second set was going to be much tougher.”
“It was my 16th match in a month,” Del Potro said, according to UBI Tennis. “I think it’s enough. I’ll take some rest and see what my next challenge will be. I will not think about tennis for awhile.”
Sunday’s singles appearance in the final will be Isners’ fourth at this level. He has won three Masters doubles title, though, the last at Indian Wells alongside fellow American Jack Sock.
Isner will play either Alexander Zverev (No. 4) or Pablo Carreno Busta (No. 16) who scooted past Kevin Anderson (No. 6) in yesterday’s quarterfinal, the only match win he holds over the South African in five meetings. Zverev and Carreno Busta meet tonight at 7 p.m. ESPN covers the match.
“When he [Isner] plays as good as today he is one of the toughest guys on tour. He has everything to win the title,” Del Potro added.