When Juan Martin del Potro and John Isner stepped out on court for their ninth meeting at the quarter-final stage of the Rolex Paris Masters they knew world no.1 Rafa Nadal had just withdrawn from his match against Filip Krajinović, and in doing so gifted the two tall powerhouses a boost in their chances of reaching the finals of the Masters event in Paris.

There was arguably more on the line for del Potro than for his American counterpart as a win today meant he would qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals. For Isner to go to London in two weeks time he would have to go on and win the title in Paris.

But today would not be the day of Juan Martin del Potro. Isner simply was the more consistent player, hammering down slightly more aces in just over two hours and ten minutes of play. In a match that saw both suffer physical ailments Isner eventually took the match in three sets: 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-4 and reduced the arrears in their head to head record to 3-6.

Juan Martin del Potro came off a strong showing in October. The 17th ranked player from Argentina clinched his sole title this season in Stockholm and extended his impressive from in Basel where a resurgent Federer was just about able to stop him in a nailbiting deciding set in the final. So it seems del Potro has taken that momentum over to the France capital as he relinquished just 13 games against Sousa and Haase.

John isner on the other hand has already racked up two titles this season and had a great amount of points to defend from last year where he reached the final in which he got beat in three tight sets by the hands of Andy Murray. The 32-year old’s route to the quarters at this year’s campaign saw him sweating more bullets than del Potro. He dispatched the likes of Schwartzman and Dimitrov in deciding sets.

With two all out attacking players it all pointed towards a mouth watering clash.

The tone was set immediately as Del Potro struck a beautifully timed backhand passing return winner past a net rushing Isner. The ninth seed’s good serving got him the opening game however, but it was del Potro who was dominating the first couple of minutes.

After just four games played the American had just one challenge left. Del Potro seemingly hit every outside of the line on his first serve delivery giving Isner a taste of his own medicine. Isner would raise his game to blast a couple of forehand winners to edge ahead once again with the score line reading 3-2. Neither player has had a sniff at break point yet.

Going straight at your opponent for a blistering pass didn’t do wonders to force a break either.

In the change over that followed the physio and the doctor from the ATP attended some troubles John Isner was suffering from the strapping on his left ankle. The always amical American prompted a quick “Sorry!” towards Juan Martin for the delay. His movement didn’t seem to be affected for the remainder of the match, although in between points he tended to stroll and not rush proceedings.

As the pair traded a calvalcade of winners that resulted from their shared aggressive brand of tennis it more than ever became apparent the first strike after the serve was key. On display were multiple lobs from del Potro and second serve aces from Isner. The Parisien crowd were eating it up.

The first break points and effectively set points were for John Isner. Serving at 4-5 15-30 down, Juan Martin could only gaze at the backhand down the line winner from the world no. 14. Isner needed only one as poor shot selection from Juan Martin gave John Isner an easy high forehand volley winner. Del Potro was furious with himself for giving up his serve so easily.

First set John Isner: 6-4.

Second set started off with similar dominance showed by both on serve. Juan Martin shrugged off his poor last service game of the first set and utilized the drop shot to great effect but he still couldn’t break down Isner’s game enough to earn himself a single break point in the second set.

Love service games were getting more scarce however and so were the three shot rallies. Signs were ominous the second set could only be decided in a tiebreak. Isner had other plans but a fantastic forehand on the run winner – with del Potro serving at 5-6 down – would be the only point the world no. 17 was able to take.

In the breaker there was not much to separate the two. At 3-3 a change-up from Isner, who came charging in after the return, pressured Juan Martin into playing a down the line backhand winner. At 4-4 it was time for Isner’s incredible inside out forehand to come out of hiding. Juan Martin could not afford any mistakes.

A gutsy second serve caught Isner completely off guard at 5-5 and it earned Juan Martin his first look at set point. This time Isner could not come up with the goods as he double faulted to hand del Potro the second set: 7-6(5).

Disaster seemed to struck during the third game of the third set. A lengthy rally ended with Juan Martin netting a backhand and he immediately reached for his thigh. Isner profited from the poor patch of play that ensued and broke Juan Martin’s serve for a second time as del Potro sent a wild forehand wide.

During the change of ends del Potro swallowed down on what looked like a painkiller while Isner received a massage treatment and signaled a fist pump towards his box. John, full of confidence, was now serving with the break advantage at 2-1 up in the decider.

Isner held comfortably, booming down serve bomb after serve bomb. All the while the first serve speed from the Argentine dropped severely. Things were not looking good for the tower of Tandil but he managed to hold his next couple of service games.

It’s never a good idea to give the American a sniff of blood. By now Isner was hunting down every ball and taking his return earlier than in the first two sets. Del Potro managed to fend off his opponent’s aggressive play and at least make the ninth seed serve it out at 5-4.

Isner started with an ace down the T but an anxious forehand miss saw del Potro level at 15-15. John then followed it up with his biggest serve of the match: 221 km/h. Del Potro got his hands on the fourth point but a second serve in the body and yet another strong first serve delivery proved too good for the del Potro.

Luck favors the brave and Isner followed that credo perfectly to come out on top to advance to the semi-finals of the Rolex Paris Masters. He beat Juan Martin del Potro 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-4 and by keeping his own dream alive of joining the elite top eight in London he ended Juan Martin’s hope all the same.

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