ISNER RETURNS TO MIAMI OPEN SEMIFINALS FOR SECOND STRAIGHT YEAR
By Tucker Verdi
Miami Gardens, FL — John Isner’s Miami magic hasn’t run out just yet. The No. 7 seed is headed to the semifinals of the 2019 Miami Open presented by Itaú a year after his magical run last year ended with him lifting the Butch Buchholz Trophy as the men’s singles champion.
With a 7-6(1), 7-6(5) win over No. 22 seed Roberto Bautista Agut, Isner clinched his 12th appearance in a Masters 1000 semifinal. The tiebreaks to decide each set were his sixth and seventh of this tournament alone, and his staggering 23rd and 24th since the beginning of the year. To put that in perspective, 62% of his sets have been decided by tiebreaks.
Isner played four tiebreaks in 2018 en route to the biggest title of his career. His Miami Open run last year turned around the season for him, righting the ship and having without a doubt his best year on tour. He returned to the top 10 for the first time since 2012, won his fifth title in Atlanta, and advanced to his second and third Grand Slam quarterfinals at Wimbledon — where he also reached his first major semifinal — and the US Open.
In that Wimbledon semifinal, he played the second longest match in the tournament’s history at six hours and 36 minutes. The longest — Isner’s first round win over Nicolas Mahut in 2010 at 11 hours and five minutes.
Isner is seemingly replicating his turnaround last year with his run in 2019.
The right-hander with a powerful forehand wing was as reliant as ever on his serve against the Spaniard, facing only one break point in the entire one-hour-and-45-minute match. He aced Bautista Agut at an astonishing clip, tallying up 24 over the two sets of play. The big man failed to get any good looks at Bautista Agut’s serve, however, and squandered the three break point chances he saw.
It all came down to the tiebreaks in the end. While Isner cruised in the first tiebreak, he quickly fell behind 0-3 in the second tiebreak — stunning even himself by losing both points on his serve. But Isner showed a level of poise on defense that he had not displayed all match, stepping in early to deliver too well-timed returns of Bautista Agut’s serve. He would win both of those points on his way to claiming the second-set tiebreak and ultimately the match.
In the semifinals, the American No. 1 will play either No. 11 seed Borna Coric or qualifier Felix Auger-Aliassime.