ISNER KEEPS TITLE DEFENSE ALIVE, AUGER-ALIASSIME FIRST QUALIFIER IN QUARTERS SINCE 2007
By Tucker Verdi
Miami Gardens, FL — No. 7 seed and defending champion John Isner edged by No. 19 seed Kyle Edmund on Tuesday afternoon, escaping the British No. 1 in a pair of tiebreaks, 7-6(5), 7-6(3), in the fourth round of the 2019 Miami Open presented by Itaú. Isner advances to his second consecutive Miami Open quarterfinal after his memorable run to the title in 2018.
The American No. 1 pushed Edmund early, breaking the 25-year-old in the sixth game of the set and going up 5-2. Isner allowed Edmund to claw his way back into the set, however, being broken for only the second time this fortnight. Reeling off three straight games to level at 5-all, Edmund took advantage of the unusually high number of second serves he was seeing from Isner.
Isner himself would have to stage a comeback after falling down 2-5 in the tiebreak, leaning on his powerful serve and a key double fault by Edmund to get him out of trouble. Isner would ultimately triumph in the tiebreak 7-5 to carry the opening set.
In the second, both players were resolute on serve and held until 6-games-all, not unusual for Isner and his style of play. The big man would pull through in that tiebreak as well, winning 7-3 en route to the straight-set win.
Isner will face the winner of No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic and No. 22 seed Roberto Bautista Agut. On the prospect of facing Djokovic, Isner said, “I have played him a bunch of times and have had some success. Most of the times I haven’t. If I play him, it will be a huge challenge for me. It will be a match that will be a lot of fun.”
18-year old qualifier Felix Auger-Aliassime is through to his first quarterfinal at the Miami Open and recorded the third top-20 win of his career against World No. 19 and 17th seed Nikoloz Basilashvili, prevailing 7-6(4), 6-4. After holding serve to 5-all, Auger-Aliassime was broken by Basilashvili, giving the latter a chance to serve for the set. Auger-Aliassime, however, would break right back to force the opening set to a tiebreak.
“When I got broken at 5-All, tried to stay calm, tried to find a way. You know, maybe he does, like, unforced error, did a double fault, and then maybe got tight and I was back in the match.”
He is the first qualifier to reach the quarterfinals in Miami since 2007 when Guillermo Canas made a run to the final, upsetting five top-20 seeds en route including World No. 1 Roger Federer. Auger-Aliassime will be ranked No. 41 in the world on Monday, the youngest player in the top 50.
In the quarters, he will face No. 11 seed Borna Coric, who dropped the first set against No. 27 Nick Kyrgios but came back to win, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2. The high-intensity match was also a highly-emotional match for the two players, with both given warnings for abuse after smashing their rackets into smithereens on the court.
“That was the moment where I was really close of actually losing the match,” Coric said, in reference to taking out his frustration on his racket. “I was losing my composure. I was not playing well. I was not serving well. I just kind of didn’t know what to do anymore. [Smashing my racket] got me back on my feet. I let go all of my frustrations, and I started to play better again. I started to serve better. I started to think more clearly. So that was one of the turning points.”
It was Coric’s technical acumen that ultimately prevailed over Kyrgios’ power and unpredictability. While the Croatian attempted to vary his shot selection more — no doubt to keep up with Kyrgios, who entertained the crowd with between-the-leg shots and thundering forehands winners, it was Coric’s court coverage that provided him the advantage.
At 2-all in the decider, Kyrgios began to unravel, calling out the crowd repeatedly between each point. After being broken to go down 2-4, the umpire had had enough of Kyrgios’ verbal abuse and assessed him a game penalty, allowing Coric the chance to serve out the match. He did so, sealing the match at just under two hours.
Asked if any of Kyrgios’ behavior affected him, Coric was quite clear: “No, absolutely not. I’m just trying to focus on myself and I don’t really care what anyone else does, Nick or someone else. I’m always trying to look at myself and to focus on myself. It didn’t affect me at any point.”