In a clash that pits experience against youth, John Isner takes on Hyeon Chung. Isner has found some much-needed form this week, putting together a run of three wins to bring some light to a torrid season that had seen him pick up just two wins ahead of this week. Chung, in contrast, has had a dream season with his performances in Melbourne, where he reached the semifinals, the pick of the bunch. But will Chung once again be making the headlines or will it be Isner to shine on home soil?
It will be a fourth meeting for Chung and Isner in a head-to-head that the American currently leads two matches to one. Isner won their first encounter two years ago, defeating the Korean on the clay courts in Houston in straight sets. He recorded another straight sets victory last year in the second round of the US Open where he was largely untroubled in a 6-3 6-4 7-5 win. However, Chung turned the tables to win 7-6 5-7 6-2 in their only clash so far this year in Auckland.
Isner’s greater experience could be a factor. Though Chung did what Isner has never accomplished by reaching a Grand Slam semifinal in Melbourne, Isner often seems to save his best tennis for the Masters 1000 events, particularly on home soil. The North Carolina native has reached three Masters 1000 finals, two of which were in America, and a further seven semifinals. This will be only Chung’s second quarterfinal at this level.
Path to the quarterfinal
With all the seeds receiving first round byes, Isner, seeded 14th, began his tournament against Jiri Vesely. The Czech had defeated Lukas Lacko in straight sets in the first round, but faced a significantly tougher proposition in the second. After Isner won the first set in a tiebreak, however, the American’s game deserted him as Vesely won the second at a canter. But Isner recovered to win the decider six games to three and pick up a vital win.
He found the going easier against Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny. Youzhny, twice a US Open semifinalist and world #8, is now coming to the end of what has been an excellent career and threatened little as he fell 4-6 3-6 to Isner. That set up a clash with second seed and Australian Open finalist Marin Cilic. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there were no breaks in the first set, but Isner was dominant in the tiebreak, winning it without dropping a point. He then got a crucial break up 4-3 in the second and sealed the match shortly after.
Chung, seeded 19th, opened his Miami campaign with a victory against Australia’s Matthew Ebden. Michael Mmoh, Chung’s third round opponent had excelled in reaching the round of 32, coming through the qualifiers and winning two main draw matches. But he was brushed aside by Chung, with his exploits over the past week perhaps catching up with him, and the Korean dropped just two games in a 6-1 6-1 win. Chung impressed again in defeating Joao Sousa of Portugal 6-4 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals.
How do they match up?
Chung is fast developing into one of the best defenders on Tour, but the power of Isner will represent an interesting challenge for the 21-year-old. The American is capable of taking the racquet out of his opponents hands with his massive serve. Standing at 6’10, Isner is one of the tallest men on Tour and has the first delivery to match. He is can also generate serious power on his forehand, particularly when given time, which the slow court in Miami should allow.
Chung, though without a standout weapon like Isner’s serve, is none-the-less not short of power himself. He is capable of dictating with his forehand, whilst his ability to take his backhand both crosscourt and down the line make it a useful shot indeed for the Korean. His court coverage is also hugely impressive, with the 21-year-old reminiscent of Djokovic and Nadal with his athleticism and flexibility when defending. Isner’s offence will have to be sharp if he wants to puncture Chung.
This match represents a massive opportunity for both men. But Chung will be the one to take it. The world #23’s defensive skills should be a match for what Isner can throw at them, and Chung has both the accuracy and the power to exploit the big man’s lack of mobility. It won’t be easy for Chung and he will probably have to play at least one tiebreak, but just as he did in Auckland, he will have enough to win in three sets.
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