In a battle between young gun and veteran, where it is unusually the younger man with the experience, Alexander Zverev takes on John Isner in the Miami Open final. Neither had perfect starts to the season, indeed Isner had just two match wins to his name when he arrived in Florida. But both now have the chance to lift a Masters 1000 title, with Zverev aiming for his third and Isner his first. But who will be crowned the champion in the Sunshine State?
Zverev and Isner have met three times so far on Tour and the German has claimed the win every time. Their first match came in 2016 in the first round of the Shanghai Masters when Zverev put in a dominant performance to defeat Isner 6-4 6-2. Their second match, which was also contested in Miami, was a rather closer affair with Zverev winning 6-7 7-6 7-6. In their most recent meeting, in the semifinals of the Italian Open, Zverev again won in three sets 6-4 6-7 6-1.
Comparing the pair’s records in Masters 1000 finals will also do little to comfort Isner’s fans. Whilst Zverev has won both of his Masters 1000 finals to date, defeating Djokovic and Federer to do so, Isner has lost his previous three. In the American’s defence, he has faced tough opposition, running into a rampant Federer at Indian Wells in 2012, Nadal at his best in 2013 in Cincinnati and the ascendant Murray in Paris in 2017.
Path to the final
With all the seeds receiving first round byes both Zverev, seeded fourth, and Isner, seeded 17th, received first round byes. That saw Zverev begin his campaign against Daniil Medvedev where a mid-match wobble nearly saw the German crash out in his first match. But Zverev was able to recover, closing out the match in a deciding set tiebreak. He then recovered from a poor start to defeat former world #3 David Ferrer in three sets 2-6 6-2 6-4.
That left him facing Nick Kyrgios for a place in the quarterfinals. Whilst it was the Australian who was the victor when the two met in Miami last year, Zverev had his revenge in a 6-4 6-4 win with Kyrgios seeming to struggle with his back throughout. Zverev then defeated recent Indian Wells semifinalist Borna Coric 6-4 6-4 to reach the semifinals where he had too much power for Pablo Carreno Busta, defeating the Spaniard 7-6 6-2.
Isner began his tournament with a hard-fought three set victory over Jiri Vesely with the American winning 7-6 1-6 6-3 to progress. Since then he hasn’t dropped a set. The North Carolinian defeated Mikhail Youzhny 6-4 6-3 before defeating second seeded Marin Cilic 7-6 6-3 to record his biggest win for some time. He backed that up with a victory over young Korean Hyeon Chung in the quarterfinals. Isner then snapped Juan Martin del Potro’s 15 match winning streak 6-1 7-6, in what was a sensational performance from the 17th seed.
How do they match up?
Both men will look to dominate this match with aggressive hitting from the outset. Zverev has the better groundstrokes of the two and is comparatively versatile. For Isner it will be vital to keep the ball away from the Zverev backhand. It is the German’s best shot and when allowed to step in on the shot he can be devastatingly effective with it. Equally comfortable taking it down the line and crosscourt Zverev could well use it to exploit Isner’s lack of mobility.
Isner will hope to keep Zverev at bay with his serve and build the match from there. The American stands 6’10, making him the third tallest man on Tour behind only Reilly Opelka and Ivo Karlovic. His considerable height, along with a near flawless technique that rarely gets it’s due, makes him one of the best servers on Tour, able to find angles and power few others can. His forehand is dangerous when given time, though Isner struggles when pressed and is far from an elite defender.
If John Isner is able to play at the level he has in recent matches, then there will be no stopping him in this final. The big man had all the shots against Chung and del Potro, with the latter match being probably the best Isner has ever played. Though it would not be unreasonable to expect a slight drop in performance from Isner, so well has he been playing that he should still have enough to lift his first ever Masters 1000 title.
Who do you think will win the title? Let us know in the comments below!