John Isner wins two tiebreakers to advance at Miami Open

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MIAMI — John Isner never had a break-point opportunity and won anyway, which is the kind of feat typical of John Isner.

The big American with the big serve hit 16 aces Sunday and edged No. 11-seeded Felix Auger-Aliassime 7-6 (5), 7-6 (5) in the third round of the Miami Open.

That made it four consecutive sets Isner has won by tiebreaker against Auger-Aliassime in Miami. The score when they met in the 2019 semifinal was 7-6 (3), 7-6 (4).

In the rematch, neither player had a break point, which meant the outcome was determined by a handful of shots. Isner likes such matches – sometimes.

“I enjoy it when I win,” he said. “It’s frustrating when you lose a match that comes down to point here or there, and a lot of times that’s how it is for me. I could very easily be talking now as a loser and be going home.”

On the women’s side, Naomi Osaka advanced to the fourth round at Miami for the first time in her career when qualifier Nina Stojanovic withdrew from their match shortly before the scheduled start because of a right thigh injury.

Osaka, ranked No. 2, has won 22 consecutive matches since her most recent defeat in February 2020, and she earned her fourth Grand Slam title at the Australian Open last month. But in Miami, where she is making her fifth appearance, she has previously made early exits.

She’ll next face No. 16 Elise Mertens, who won a seesaw match against No. 22 Anett Kontaveit, 6-2, 0-6, 6-2. No. 29 Jessica Pegula defeated No. 6 Karolina Pliskova for the third time this year, 6-1, 4-6, 6-4.

In other men’s play, No. 7 Roberto Bautista Agut rallied past No. 31 Jan-Lennard Struff 4-6, 6-3, 6-2. Bautista Agut will face Isner next.

“I’m going to have to play well if I’m going to have any chance of beating him,” Isner said. “He’s too solid if I don’t.”

Isner, who won the biggest title of his 14-year tour career in Miami in 2018, took the court at midday in sunny, warm, muggy weather – the sort that seems to bring out his best tennis.

“These conditions are good for me,” he said. “I knew at the very worst I was going to be able to make it a close match and make it come down to a few points, and that was the case.”

In the second tiebreaker, the 6-foot-10 American bent down to hit a deft drop volley for a winner to make it 5-all. With Auger-Aliassime serving at 5-6, Isner prevailed in a 13-shot exchange – a rarity in the serve-dominated match – when the Canadian sailed a forehand long.

Only five other rallies lasted 10 shots or more.

“One of the best points I played all match,” Isner said.