Big John Isner’s Big Chance

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John Isner

In the era of the “Big 4”, there have been many talented and successful tennis players who could be given the title of “best player to never win a major.” Not too many would put John Isner on this list compared to players such as Nikolai Davydenko, David Ferrer, and Tomas Berdych. Although he has had a successful career, Isner has not played his best tennis on majors and has never been ranked higher than 9th. Isner’s performance at Masters 1000 events has been a completely different story. He has undoubtedly played his best tennis on these big stages. Masters 1000, or simply Masters, events are a series of nine tournaments throughout the season awarding more points than non-majors. These events feature the best of the best, with the top 30 players in the world required to play for rankings points.

Isner may not be the best overall player without a Masters title, but he has performed better in these events than almost any other player who has not captured a title. In his career, he has reached the finals of Masters events on three different occasions, and the semifinals an additional seven times. The only other players of this era to reach three finals without winning are Kei Nishikori and Gael Monfils. There are other players who had more overall success in the last few years, but their success in Masters specifically did not reach that of Isner’s. Isner holds the advantage over Monfils in match win percentage in Masters, as the Frenchman’s career has been plagued with injuries and inconsistency. Nishikori has been more consistent in making deep runs at Masters, but his most successful tournament, the Madrid Open, is one that Isner often skips to focus on hard court tournaments. Isner’s consistent play and three runs to Masters finals gives him a legitimate claim to being the best player to never have won a Masters event.

Will John Isner Finally Win?

Isner is playing Alexander Zverev in the Miami Open final in chase of his maiden Masters title. On Friday, he produced one of the best matches of his career, beating Indian Wells champions Juan Martin del Potro 6-1 7-6. Since the first match he played in Key Biscayne, a tight 3-set victory over Jiri Vesely, Isner has won all 40 of his service games. In those games, he has only faced a single break point. He has not dropped a set since that match, an impressive feat against his challenging competition. He defeated major champions Marin Cilic and del Potro along the way, as well as the young sensation Hyeon Chung.

Even in a depleted field lacking Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka, and Rafael Nadal; Isner faced a difficult road to the final and will have fully earned his title if he tops Zverev, winner of two Masters last season. Zverev is a big server like Isner, but standing 4 inches shorter than the 6’10” Isner, plays a fairly different game. The intriguing match up has the 20-year-old Zverev trying to add to his constantly growing resume, and the 32-year-old Isner trying to earn his first Masters trophy to add to his pedigree of the best American male tennis player of this generation. Isner has come up short in all three finals in the past, but he is playing some of the best tennis of his career and is one match away from no longer being in the debate for best Masters player without a title.

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