By Tucker Verdi

Miami Gardens, FL — John Isner, the 6-foot-11 big man known for his powerful strokes, is not tested on his serve very often. The velocity with which he launches his serves makes them often unreturnable — his opponent’s only option often being just to watch it fly by.

Albert Ramos Viñolas had other plans. Playing on Stadium Court in the first match of Day 7 of the 2019 Miami Open presented by Itau, Ramos Viñolas came out and broke the American during his very first service game. Working hard on Isner’s second serve to move the not-so-nimble No. 7 seed side to side — a style of play that doesn’t suit the American No. 1, the 31-year-old Spaniard took the early lead in the first set, going up 2-0.

“I got off to a pretty slow start,” Isner said. “I was down 2-0 just like that, so I think winning the first set was pretty crucial.”

Isner — trying to defend the biggest title of his career after winning the 2018 Miami Open championship, ended up winning the first set. Firing off seven aces, Isner held serve through the remainder of the set, taking it 7-5 with a break of Ramos-Viñolas in the last game.

The North Carolina native by way of Georgia — thanks to his years playing college tennis for the University of Georgia Bulldogs, would rely on that overpowering serve to carry him in the second, tallying up nine more aces to claim the set and thereby the match 7-5, 7-6(6).

“I, of course, absolutely love playing in Miami,” Isner expressed to the cheering crowd. “It’s the best tournament of my life… to be at this tournament here, I really feel at home.”

Isner keeps himself in the hunt for a second consecutive title in Miami, moving onto the fourth round for the fifth time in his career. There, he will play the winner of the match between No. 12 seed Milos Raonic and No. 19 seed Kyle Edmund. If Isner has his wish, he’ll be doing so on Stadium Court.

“I love playing on center court, if [Miami Open tournament director] James Blake’s listening, I’d love to play here again for my next match.”