It’s a special Easter Sunday for John Isner.
The big-serving American blasted his way to the biggest title of his career Sunday in the final of the Miami Open by coming back to defeat German Alexander Zverev 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-4.
Prior to Sunday afternoon at Crandon Park, the likely brightest highlight of Isner’s career was his epic defeat of Nicolas Mahut in the first round of Wimbledon in 2010.
But in adding the biggest trophy of his career to his resume this week, Isner is now only the second American man to have won a Masters title since Andy Roddick in the 2010 Miami Open.
“You can’t replicate moments like this,” the 32-year-old Isner said. “I’m towards the latter part of my career, this was the biggest moment of my career.”
Of the two players, Zverev made the slower start, facing a trio of break points in his opening service game and five overall in the first set.
However, Isner was unable to capitalize on his opportunities, including missing a relatively easy forehand volley that would have given him an early 2-0 lead.
The American came into the final playing some of the best tennis of his career and riding a wave of momentum following victories over Marin Cilic, Hyeon Chung, and Juan Martin del Potro. He had held 37-straight service games and faced only one break point during that span.
Zverev did manage to earn a break chance at 2-all, but Isner erased the opportunity with an ace down the middle.
Isner missed two more break chances in the ensuing game, and both men then settled into a strong serving rhythm, resulting in an unsurprising tiebreak.
It was that 13 th game of the set that brought much surprise with both men, at one point, combining to lose five consecutive service points. Zverev earned the first mini break after forcing his opponent to volley into the net, but the German then missed two consecutive backhands. But Isner quickly squandered his own lead with a forehand error and an uncharacteristic double fault. Serving at 5-4, Zverev finally stabilized and closed out the set.
Both players started the second set with the same serving rhythm that they had found in the latter portion of the first.
It took until Zverev committed a double fault at 4-all for a returner to even reach deuce and the German then badly mishit a forehand to give Isner his sixth break chance of the afternoon. The American then fought off a difficult body serve and, after an extended rally, struck an inside-out forehand winner.
Serving for the match, Isner dropped the opening point with a forehand error, but dodged a bullet when Zverev missed an easy backhand pass that could have resulted in love-30. But shortly thereafter, the American missed another forehand and the German pounced on a poor volley to fire a forehand pass to earn a chance to break back. Zverev then missed a difficult, but makeable backhand, but earned a second chance when Isner took his turn to dump a backhand into the net. In the best point of the match, Isner survived the second break point, and another poor volley, by finding a forehand pass up the line after a lung-busting rally.
Remarkable stuff from @JohnIsner!
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) April 1, 2018
The American then earned his first set point with a 140 mile-per-hour service winner, but this time it was the German’s turn to find something miraculous in the form of running down a number of difficult shots and then bunting a volley winner to return to deuce. A forehand winner from Isner earned him a second chance to win the set and this time, the American did so with a strong serve out wide.
Both players started the third with easy holds to love, but Isner was the first to threaten in the return game. The American earned a break point at 1-all, but Zverev fended it off with an intelligent body serve.
Two games later, Zverev missed an overhead, Isner fired a strong backhand and then followed with a powerful forehand return to put the German on the ropes at love-40. The German survived the first with a service winner, the second when Isner missed a forehand, and the third with an ace to claw all the way back to deuce. Zverev hit long to give Isner another chance, but the American missed a relatively easy return and then dumped a forehand into the net on the next point. Zverev held on his first game point with an acute forehand winner.
Overall, the third set followed an extremely similar pattern to the first with Isner holding his serve comfortably and missing out on five break chances in the early stages. But unlike the first, Zverev was unable to settle into a solid rhythm in the later stages. At 4-all, the German double-faulted and then had to watch a ferocious forehand winner fly past him. At love-30, Isner botched a second-serve backhand return, but he earned double break point when Zverev completely erred on a backhand of his own. After an extended rally, the American finally earned the lead in the decider when his opponent dumped a forehand into the net. With Isner now only one service hold away from the title, Zverev slammed his racquet into the court.
Seeking his 53rd consecutive hold of serve, and the most important of his career, Isner was rock solid. He won the opening point with a solid forehand approach and then fired three consecutive aces to end the match in signature fashion.
What a week for @JohnIsner!
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) April 1, 2018
Following his disappointing defeat, the 20-year-old Zverev was gracious in defeat and, having played with Isner since the age of 14, thanked him for helping him to become the player that he is today.
“I want to congratulate John. You deserve to be a Masters 1000 champion,” Zverev said. “I want to thank you for teaching me how to play the game and practicing with me from such a young age.”
Before formally lifting the biggest trophy of his career, Isner returned the pleasantries in kind and praised the German’s bright future as well as the accolades that Zverev has already achieved.
“He’s won two of these before so I appreciate you letting me have one,” Isner said. “Dude, I’m 12 years older than you, you have the brightest future ahead of you.”
It was the first win in four chances in a Masters 1000 final for the American. With the victory, he will return to his previous career-high ranking of number 9 in the world.