Head-To-Head: Roger Federer 5-2 John Isner
Last meeting: 2015 Paris Masters (Isner won 7-6 3-6 7-6)
After a near two-week of intense tennis at the Miami Gardens, the 2019 Miami Open final has a déjà vu feel about it. Could John Isner complete a successful title defense, or will Roger Federer win his fourth Miami Open crown? The pair will meet for the first time in four years.
Fourth seed Roger Federer entered the American hardcourt swing with a point prove. His legacy is unquestionably intact, but he has set the bar so high which is why defeats in the earlier rounds of the big tournaments are likely to raise a few eyebrows. Following his fourth round defeat to Stefanos Tsitsipas at the Australian Open, the legendary Swiss took an extended break from tennis. He elected not to play in Rotterdam where he was the defending champion and instead, chose to compete in Dubai. That decision paid off as he swept past the field and captured his 100th career singles title (avenging his loss to Tsitsipas in the championship match). Federer replicated his form to the BNP Paribas Open where he was denied glory by an inspired Dominic Thiem in the final. Following a rusty opening match in Miami where the former World No.1 came from a set down to beat Delray Beach Open champion Radu Albot, he only dropped an average of six games in his past five matches. A win over John Isner in the final will put the Swiss on top spot in the Race to London. Not too bad for the soon to be 38-year-old.
Seventh seed John Isner has served his way to the final without the loss of a set. He also has proven to be the tiebreak king this fortnight winning 9 out of the 10 sets with a 7-6 scoreline. The tall American echoed his sentiments on how his game can be so disruptive to opponents due to his remarkable serve. His low-key approach to matches at the Hard Rock Stadium did not reflect his confidence when asked if he can defend his title on Sunday.
“I believe personally that I can win any tournament I enter because of how disruptive I can be and because of how well I can serve at times,” said Isner during the prematch press conference.
The defending champion added, “I’m not surprised that I’m sitting here back in the final again.”
After a slow start to the year where he lost in the first round at the Australian Open, he reached three semifinals in the next four tournaments. With a combination of immense serving, composure and luck, he seems to have rediscovered the winning formula that made him champion in Miami exactly a year ago.
Who will win the ATP Miami Open?
Roger Federer survived a real scare in the second round against Radu Albot but he has been different class since then. His victories over Daniil Medvedev, Kevin Anderson, and Denis Shapovalov were particluarrly crushing. Against Anderson and Medvedev, Federer broke serve a combined eight times (winning the first set against the South African 6-0). That should be a worrying sign for Isner – who in spite of being 10/10 on sets won – has not been so convincing especially during matches against Albert Ramos-Vinolas and Felix Auger-Aliassime. The young Canadian served for both the first and second set before nerves settled in and Isner inevitably won in two tiebreaks. Federer will be a level above any opponent Isner has faced this week and he will pose much tougher questions on the American’s serve. The Swiss said he will resort to play the role of goalie on Sunday to try and play many balls back. This is not entirely straight forward for Federer especially if he runs out of patience converting his break point chances and it would be anyone’s game in the tiebreak. But given his poise and form, Federer should prevail and fittingly in a third set tiebreak to end Isner’s reign.
Prediction: Federer in 3.