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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Jelena Ostapenko cruises into the second round with a straight-set win over Petra Martic in Ostrava

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Former Roland Garros champion and world number 44 Jelena Ostapenko cruised past number 5 seed Petra Martic 6-3 6-1 after 57 minutes to reach the second round at J&T Banka Ostrava Open. 

 

Martic won her previous two head-to-head matches against Ostapenko at Indian Wells in 2018 and in Birmingham in 2019. 

Ostapenko has scored her milestone 20th career over a top-20 rival. The Latvian player hit 30 winners to 15 unforced errors. 

Martic got an early break in the first game and consolidated it with a hold of serve to take a 2-0 lead. Ostapenko saved two break points and held serve for 1-2 before breaking serve with a forehand passing shot in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2. The Latvian player reeled off five consecutive games to open up a 5-2 lead. Martic held serve to claw her way back to 3-5. Ostapenko served out the set at love. Ostapenko hit 20 winners to 10 unforced errors. 

Ostapenko got an early break with a forehand crosscourt winner. The 2017 French Open champion went up a double break and hit a series of forehand winners to race out to a 4-0 lead extending her winning streak to five consecutive games. Martic held serve in the fifth game to close the gap to 1-4. Ostapenko held serve easily to build up a 5-1 lead with a crosscourt backhand winner. In the next game Ostapenko earned two match points, as Martic hit the netcord with a dropshot and closed out the match with a forehand down the line. 

“I think I played really well well today. I just got used to playing the first couple of games, but then I played really well and I did not give her any chances to play her game, and I made so many winners. I played very smart and also used dropshots and mixed it up a little bit, which helped me, but in the deciding moments I was still aggressive. I knew Martic was going to make a lot of balls in play and I would have to be very focused and very consistent to beat her”, said Ostapenko. 

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Maria Sakkari reaches her third quarter final of the season in Ostrava

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Maria Sakkari got through to her third quarter final of the season after beating Elina Svitolina 6-3 6-3 at the J&T Banka Open in Ostrava with five breaks and 32 winners. 

 

Sakkari has already reached two quarter finals in 2020 in St. Petersburg and at the Western and Southern Open in New York and scored the fourth win of her career against a top 5 player. 

Sakkari went up a 3-0 lead with a double break. Svitolina pulled one of the two breaks back in the fourth game to claw his way back to 1-3. Sakkari converted his third break point in the eighth game to win the first set 6-3. 

Svitolina earned her first break in the third game of the second set to take a 2-1 lead. Sakkari battled to deuce four times and converted her third break points in a marathon fourth game to draw level to 2-2. Sakkari earned another brek to open up a 5-3 lead to close out the match after 1 hour and 16 minutes. 

“Obviously winning against a player like Elina, the way I played I think that made me happy today. I think playing like me gives me a lot of confidence. Getting another top 5 win is very important for me. When I was starting my career, I had people telling me that I cannot play indoors. I think it was a big mistake listening to them. I have beaten very good indoor players in St. Petersburg and here in Ostrava. I have developed my game in a way that I can now be dangerous indoor sas well. My serve is big, and I am playing a little bit more aggressive. So I am super happy. I have proved these people wrong”, said Sakkari.

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Grigor Dimitrov rallies from one set down to beat Pablo Andujar in Antwerp

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Grigor Dimitrov came back from one set down to beat Pablo Andujar 4-6 6-3 6-4 at the European Open in Antwerp.

 

Andujar earned the break in the ninth game to win the first set 6-4. Dimitrov went up an early break in the second game to take the second set 6-3. The Bulgarian player raced out to a 4-1 lead with a double break in the decider. Andujar pulled one break back in the sixth game for 2-4. Dimitrov saved four match points in the eighth game to hold serve at deuce and converted his first match point in the 10th game to win the third set 6-4. 

Ugo Humbert came back from one set down to beat this year’s US Open semifinalist Pablo Carreno Busta 5-7 6-3 6-4 after 2 hours and 33 minutes Humbert earned an early break in the second game of the opening set to build up a 5-2 lead. Carreno Busta fought back by winning five consecutive games with two breaks in the ninth and eleventh games to win the first set 7-5. 

Humbert saved four break points in the fifth game before breaking serve in the eighth game to win the second set sending the match to the third set. Humbert fended off four break points at 2-3 in the third set and broke serve to love to take a 5-4 lead, when Carreno Busta made three consecutive groundstroke errors. Humbert has improved his win-loss record to 18-11 and won the ASB Classic title in Auckland last January. The Frenchman scored the biggest win of his career when he beat Danil Medvedev in the Hamburg quarter final. 

Humbert will face either US Taylor Fritz or South African qualifier Lloyd Harris. Fritz dropped six of his first service points in his 7-6 (7-5) 6-1 win over his compatriot Reilly Opelka. 

Milos Raonic beat Aljaz Bedene 6-3 7-6 (7-4) in 86 minutes setting up a second round match against Cameron Norrie. Bedene fended off two match points, when he was serving at 5-6 15-40 to force the second set to the tie-break. Raonic rallied from 1-3 down to win the tie-break 7-4. The Canadian player reached the final at the Western and Southern Open in New York and lost to Borna Coric in the semifinal in St. Petersburg.  

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