Miami Open Day 14 Preview: Roger Federer To Lock Horns With Fast-Serving Isner For Title - UBITENNIS
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Miami Open Day 14 Preview: Roger Federer To Lock Horns With Fast-Serving Isner For Title

Federer gives title No.101 another try, while Isner looks to defend his Miami title.

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Roger Federer (photo by chryslène caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision)

A month ago in Dubai, Federer lifted his 100th winner’s trophy above his head. Two weeks ago in Indian Wells, he was just a few games away from No.101, but was outplayed in the end of that final by Dominic Thiem. Now in a tournament where he’s looked sharper with every passing round, he’ll face an opponent most players don’t enjoy playing against.

 

2018 was the best year of John Isner’s career. While he started last year by only winning two of his first eight matches, everything changed in Miami one year ago. That was the biggest title of his career, a run that included victories over three of the top five seeds. Later in the year, he advanced to his second Major semifinal, where he went down in defeat in the longest semifinal of all-time. This year he slowly built momentum on the North American hard courts, and advanced to this final without dropping a set.

“I have backed up other tournaments before after winning them the previous year, but nothing of this magnitude.” Isner said about reaching the final. “To be back in the finals is a good accomplishment for me.”

Roger Federer (4) vs. John Isner (7)

7-6, 7-6, 7-5, 7-6, 7-6, 7-6, 7-6, 7-6, 7-6, 7-6. Those are the scores of Isner’s matches in this tournament. He’s played nine tiebreakers, and prevailed in each one of them. We’ll likely see more tiebreakers on Sunday. In their seven previous matches, they’ve played eight tiebreaks, with Roger winning five of them. As Chris Fowler of ESPN highlighted, Isner has never broken Federer’s serve on a hard court.

“I’m just finding myself pretty calm in those situations.” The reigning Miami Open champion commented about his success in tiebreakers. “Maybe it’s a little bit mental. I’m definitely playing my best tennis when I have been in that situation this week, there is no doubt.”

Federer is 5-2 overall against Isner. John did win the last time they played on tour, at the 2015 Paris Indoors. Isner’s other victory came in a Davis Cup match on clay in Switzerland. This is their fourth meeting on an American hard court, and Isner is yet to defeat Federer in the US. Those stats do not count their actual last meeting, at last September’s team event, the Laver Cup. That was also played on a US hard court, with Federer saving match points and pulling out the win in a 10-point tiebreak. While the Laver Cup is not an officially-recognized event, the result is certainly legitimate, as both players were obviously giving their all.

“I know what to expect – that he will not miss many serves. He’s got an amazing serve. One of the best in the game, forever. It’s really hard to play against him,” Federer said during his on-court interview with ESPN on Friday.

Of course this match will likely come down to just a few pivotal points where a break or a minibreak is up for grabs, and that gives Isner a legitimate chance. Federer will feel less pressure to hold his serve than Isner knowing his previous inability to break Roger. That being said, Federer has struggled to convert break points in a few recent cases, most notably against Tsitsipas in Australia and Thiem in Indian Wells. If that trend continues here, that’s big trouble for Roger in a match where break points will be so limited. All things considered, I give Federer the slight edge to win his fourth Miami Open title.

Six facts to know about the final

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  1. This is the oldest combined final in the history of the men’s tournament. Federer is 37-years-old and Isner is 33.
  2. Federer has a 15-1 win-loss record against American players in the final of tournaments. His only loss was to Andre Agassi at the 2002 Miami Open.
  3. Isner has already won nine tiebreaks in the tournament so far in what is a career-best for him.
  4. Federer could become the first player on the ATP Tour to win a second title in 2019. The first 19 tournaments have all been won by different players.
  5. Isner is bidding to become the fourth person in history to defend a title in Miami. Following in the footsteps of Pete Sampras, Novak Djokovic, Agassi and Federer.
  6. Federer will be playing in his 50th Masters 1000 final and will be bidding to claim his 28th title. Regardless of the outcome, he will remain third on the all-time list for most trophies won at that level. Rafael Nadal leads with 33 titles, followed by Djokovic with 32.

The full head-to-head record (Federer leads 5-2)

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Madrid Open Daily Preview: Former Champions Rafael Nadal and Sascha Zverev Meet in the Quarterfinals

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Rafael Nadal, on Thursday in Madrid (twitter.com/MutuaMadridOpen)

The King of Clay is a five-time Madrid Open champion, though he hasn’t won this event since 2017.  Sascha Zverev is actually a more recent champion, as he raised the winner’s trophy in 2018.  And while Nadal leads their head-to-head 5-2, Zverev has claimed their last two encounters.

 

Dominic Thiem lost to Nadal and Zverev in those 2017 and 2018 Madrid finals.  He’s still looking for his first title at this event.  On Friday, Thiem faces John Isner, who has consecutively taken out two top 10 seeds in third-set tiebreaks.  Another men’s quarterfinal features two seeded players who recently won titles on clay.  The other quarterfinal sees a player whose only Masters-level wins have come on this surface, against a man who had never won a Masters match on clay prior to this event.

The women’s singles finalists, Ash Barty and Aryna Sabalenka, have the day off ahead of Saturday’s championship match.  Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova have already advanced to the women’s doubles final, and their opponents will be determined on Friday.  In addition, all four men’s doubles quarterfinals will be contested.

Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the two most prominent matches of the day, and note the other intriguing matchups on the schedule.  Friday’s play will begin at 1:00pm local time.

Dominic Thiem (3) vs. John Isner – 1:00pm on Manolo Santana Stadium

Thiem has been thought of as a great clay court player throughout his career, yet his two biggest titles have come on hard courts: Indian Wells in 2019, and last year’s US Open.  He’s yet to win a Major or a Masters event on this surface, though he’s a two-time runner-up at both this event and Roland Garros.  Isner’s best results have also come on hard courts, as he won the Masters event in Miami three years ago, and reached the semifinals of Wimbledon that same year.  But the 36-year-old American has now reached the quarterfinals in his last three appearances in Madrid, and achieved a semifinal in Rome four years ago, so he’s far from a slouch on clay.

They have split two previous meetings, both of which took place in 2015.  Their clay court match went to Thiem in straight sets.  The Austrian is yet to drop a set this week, while as mentioned earlier, Isner is coming off back-to-back grueling contests decided by a final set tiebreak.  Big-serving Isner enjoys playing in the high altitude of Madrid, but Thiem will definitely be the fresher man, and is the better player on this surface.

Rafael Nadal (1) vs. Sascha Zverev (5) – Not Before 3:00pm on Manolo Santana Stadium

While Zverev won their last two matches in straights sets, they both occurred on indoor hard courts, which is not where Nadal excels.  The three times they’ve met on clay, Rafa has been victorious, winning seven of eight sets played.  Nadal had advanced quite easily so far this week, though he’s faced a wild card and a qualifier.

Zverev has been battling an elbow issue in recent weeks, but he’s also yet to drop a set at this event, with solid wins over Kei Nishikori and Dan Evans.  If Sascha can tally a high number of aces, and minimize his double faults, he’s fully capable of upsetting the Spanish No.1.  However, since finding his form two weeks ago in Barcelona, Nadal has looked much more comfortable on his favorite surface.  If Rafa advances, he may find Dominic Thiem waiting for him, which would be a blockbuster semifinal.

Other Notable Matches on Friday:

Matteo Berrettini (8) vs. Cristian Garin (16) – Berrettini won on clay two weeks in Belgrade, while Garin won two months ago in Santiago.  Like Thiem and Isner, they’ve split their two prior matches, with the clay clash going to Garin.

Casper Ruud vs. Alexander Bublik – Ruud upset Stefanos Tsitsipas on Thursday, and is vying for his third consecutive Masters 1000 semifinal on clay.  Bublik has earned impressive victories this week over Denis Shapovalov and Aslan Karatsev.  Their only previous matchup came two years ago on a hard court in St. Petersburg, with Ruud winning in three sets.

Gabriela Dabrowski and Demi Schuurs (3) vs. Jelena Ostapenko and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova – Dabrowski and Schuurs are looking to make the final in their first tournament as a team.  Pavlyuchenkova was also a semifinalist in singles, losing to Aryna Sabalenka on Thursday.

Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic (2) vs. Wesley Koolhof and Lukasz Kubot (7) – Mektic and Pavic are a sensational 30-3 as a team this season, with five titles in eight events.  Koolhof and Kubot are just 8-7 during the same span.

Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos (3) vs. Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut (6) – When these teams met in Acapulco earlier this year, Granollers and Zeballos prevailed in straight sets.

Friday’s full Order of Play is here.

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John Isner upsets Andrey Rublev to reach quarterfinals in Madrid

John Isner is into the Madrid quarter-finals after a last set tiebreak win over Andrey Rublev.

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John Isner (@atptour - Twitter)

The American once again needed three sets and two tiebreakers to earn a top 10 scalp.

 

John Isner booked his spot in the quarterfinals of the Mutua Madrid Open by upsetting the number six seed Andrey Rublev 7-6, 3-6, 7-6 in two hours and five minutes hitting 43 winners and 29 aces in the win.

“I’ve always served well, the conditions for the server are fantastic, physically I was heavy-legged today, I finished late last night, the good thing is I finished a bit earlier today and I should be ready to go tomorrow, I’m going to need all of my legs tomorrow against Dominic (Thiem) and I’m looking forward to it for sure”.

The first set was pretty routine and we didn’t see a single break of serve the entire set as the first set would be decided by a tiebreaker. That’s where the American ran away with it jumping out to a 4-0 lead playing some great tennis and he would take it 7-4 to win the first set 7-6.

The Russian was keen to get back in the match in the second set and earned the first two breakpoints of the match at 1-1 and broke to take an early 2-1 lead. That break was all the number six seed needed to serve out the second set taking it 6-3 and setting up a deciding third set.

The number six seed once again had the first break opportunity of the third set but it was immediately saved with the big booming serve from the Greensboro, North Carolina native. That was the only breakpoint of the set and once again the match would be decided by a tiebreaker.

This one was much more closer and we didn’t see a break of serve until 4-3 when the American returned the Russian serve with a powerful forehand to take a 5-3 lead.

He would go on to serve it out to win the match and set up a quarterfinal encounter with the Austrian Domenic Them and he spoke about the matchup in his post-match press conference.

“He’s fresh, he’s won two matches and I think he is the second-best clay courter right now so it’s going to be a very tough task for me tomorrow especially on this court because he hits the ball so big and pretty fast and he does so many things well and I am going to have to play extremely well if I want any chance to beat him”

Theim currently holds a 2-1 lead in the head to head and their most recent meeting was back in 2017 in Laver Cup on an indoor hardcourt when the Austrian won in three sets.

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Madrid Open Daily Preview: The Men’s Third Round and Women’s Semifinals to be Played on Thursday

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Rafael Nadal practicing in Madrid (twitter.com/MutuaMadridOpen)

Ash Barty and Aryna Sabalenka are one round away from meeting in their second consecutive final, after Barty defeated Sabalenka in the championship match of Stuttgart.  On Thursday, both face unseeded yet considerable opposition.  And all 16 remaining men will play their third round matches, featuring seven of the ATP’s top 10.

 

Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the two most prominent matches of the day, and note the other intriguing matchups on the schedule.  Thursday’s play will begin at 11:00am local time.

Ash Barty (1) vs. Paula Badosa (WC) – Not Before 1:00pm on Manolo Santana Stadium

What a tournament it’s been for the 23-year-old wild card, who is the first Spanish woman to ever reach the semifinals of her country’s biggest tournament.  But this result is not a fluke: she’s now 14-6 this season, and 3-0 against top 20 players.  That includes a victory over her opponent today, who she defeated in straight sets last month on the green clay of Charleston.

In that match against Barty, Badosa saved 12 of 14 break points faced.  After the match, Badosa credited her aggressive game plan of attacking early in rallies as her key to success.  However, replicating that feat in front of a home crowd, and against an in-form world No.1, will be a tall task.  Barty is now 24-3 this season, and has claimed 16 of her last 18 deciding sets.  Ash possesses a high tennis IQ, and I expect her and her team to learn from the loss in Charleston, and figure out a way to overcome the impressive Spaniard.

Stefanos Tsitsipas (4) vs. Casper Ruud – Not Before 4:00pm on Arantxa Sanchez Stadium

Tsitsipas is now 10-1 on clay this season, with his only loss coming at the hands of Rafael Nadal, in a championship match where he held a match point.  Meanwhile, Ruud has compiled an impressive 25-9 record on this surface since the start of last year.  And the 22-year-old is 4-1 this season on clay against top 20 opponents, with his only loss coming at the hands of Andrey Rublev in Monte-Carlo. 

This will be their first tour-level meeting, though they did play in 2016 at an ITF event on clay, which went to Tsitsipas in a third-set tiebreak.  Ruud is fully capable of making this another tight contest, but Stefanos has been the second best clay court player so far this season, which makes him the favorite to advance.

Other Notable Matches on Thursday:

Aryna Sabalenka (5) vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova – Sabalenka has been on a tear, winning 30 of her last 36 matches.  And she’s yet to drop a set at this event.  Pavlyuchenkova has defeated four top 25 players this fortnight to reach her first WTA 1000 semifinal in over a decade.  Their only previous meeting was two years ago in Canada, with Pavlyuchenkova prevailing 7-5 in the third.

Rafael Nadal (1) vs. Alexei Popyrin – Nadal has 392 career match wins at the Masters 1000 level.  21-year-old Popyrin only has six, though the Australian earned an impressive win on Wednesday over Jannik Sinner.

Daniil Medvedev (2) vs. Cristian Garin (16) – Medvedev just earned his first win on clay since April of 2019.  By contrast, Garin has earned five clay court titles since April of 2019.  Two years ago at the Rogers Cup, Medvedev defeated Garin in straight sets.

Dominic Thiem (3) vs. Alex de Minaur – Thiem has reached the semifinals or better of this event in his last three appearances.  De Minaur often trains in Spain, but had never won a match on clay at the Masters level before this week.  Thiem leads their head-to-head 3-0.

Sascha Zverev (5) vs. Dan Evans – Zverev was the champion of this event three years ago, and comfortably dispatched of Kei Nishikori on Wednesday.  Prior to Monte-Carlo last month, Evans had lost 10 consecutive matches on clay, but has now won six of his last eight.  In their only prior encounter, Evans was victorious in four sets at the 2016 US Open.

Andrey Rublev (6) vs. John Isner – Since the beginning of 2020, Rublev is 66-16.  Isner is just 16-3 during that same span, though he saved a match point to prevail over Roberto Bautista Agut on Wednesday.  The American defeated Rublev at the 2015 Miami Open, when Rublev was only 17-years-old.

Matteo Berrettini (8) vs. Federico Delbonis – Berrettini won the clay event in Belgrade two weeks ago.  Delbonis’ two career titles have both come on this surface.

Aslan Karatsev vs. Alexander Bublik – Karatsev is now 19-5 in 2021, and on Wednesday came back from a set and a break down against Diego Schwartzman.  Bublik is 18-11 this season, and upset Denis Shapovalov in the last round.

Thursday’s full Order of Play is here.

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