John Isner

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John Isner back in Miami Open final

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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Despite a change in venue, the Miami Open has a familiar look, with John Isner back in the final.

The defending champion moved closer to another title by hitting 21 aces Friday and defeating 18-year-old Canadian qualifier Felix Auger-Aliassime 7-6 (3), 7-6 (4).

Next is a Sunday showdown in the Miami Dolphins’ stadium, where the tournament moved this year from its longtime home of Key Biscayne.

“The venue is absolutely fantastic,” said Isner, a big football fan. “To play in the stadium – the Super Bowl will be here next year – it’s pretty amazing.”

Isner’s opponent in the final will be the winner of Friday night’s match between three-time champion Roger Federer and another Canadian teenager, 19-year-old Denis Shapovalov. Now 33, Isner won his only ATP Masters title a year ago on Key Biscayne.

“It’s amazing,” Isner told the crowd after his latest win. “I said before the tournament the chances were I would not defend my title. I’m very, very happy.”

The women’s final Saturday will match No. 5 Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic against No. 12 Ashleigh Barty of Australia.

Auger-Aliassime served for both sets in the semifinal, but Isner broke each time by taking advantage of double-faults, and then used his big serve to control the tiebreakers.

Nine of his 10 sets in the tournament have gone to a tiebreaker, and he has won each one. But Auger-Aliassime figured neither set should have gotten to that point.

“It’s a chance you can’t miss, serving two times for the set,” he said. “Just terrible.”

Auger-Aliassime, 5-0 previously against top 20 opponents, was the youngest male semifinalist in the tournament’s 35-year history. He’ll jump to a career-best No. 33 in next week’s rankings.

But he’ll need steadier play at pivotal moments to fulfill his potential as a future Grand Slam champion.

Isner lost serve for only the third time in the tournament to fall behind early. Auger-Aliassime served at 5-4 but double-faulted into the net three times, including on break point.

There was a repeat in the second set. Auger-Aliassime served at 5-3, double-faulted once and then hit a swinging volley into the net on break point.

The teenager blamed nerves.

“It’s like I caught a virus or something,” he said. “I couldn’t put a second serve in anymore. That’s just very tough to swallow.”

Each lapse led to a tiebreaker, where Isner has been unbeatable of late after arriving at Miami with a modest 7-10 record in tiebreakers this year.

He finished strong against Auger-Aliassime, whacking three aces in the final tiebreaker, the last on a 140 mph serve that was his fastest of the match.

“I’m playing well,” Isner said. “Keep it up and see what happens.”

John Isner advances to fourth round at Miami Open

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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — John Isner was broken in the first game but held thereafter and hit 16 aces to beat Albert Ramos-Vinolas 7-5, 7-6 (6) Sunday in the third round of the Miami Open.

Isner, now 33, won the biggest title of his career in the tournament a year ago. He is seeded seventh this year.

In women’s play, No. 25 Danielle Collins lost to Wang Yafan 7-5, 6-1.

Defending women’s champion Sloane Stephens was scheduled to play later Sunday, as was No. 1-ranked Novak Djokovic on the men’s side.

Isner earns biggest win, beating Zverev in Miami Open final

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KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. (AP) John Isner won the biggest title of his 14-year career on Sunday, holding every service game and rallying past Alexander Zverev in the Miami Open final, 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-4.

The 32-year-old Isner previously had been 0-3 in ATP Masters 1000 finals. His breakthrough came in the last singles match on Key Biscayne before the Miami Open moves next year to the NFL Dolphins’ stadium.

Seeded 14th, Isner became the first American man to win the tournament since Andy Roddick in 2010. Isner joined Sloane Stephens, who won the women’s title Saturday, for the first U.S. sweep in the event since 2004, when the champions were Roddick and Serena Williams.

The start of the last game was delayed by the crowd’s chants of “U-S-A!” Isner then held at love, and on the final three points he smacked aces, giving him 18 for the match and 79 for the tournament.

Isner’s title run surprised even him because he arrived at Key Biscayne with a record of 1-6 this year, including losses to players with rankings of 60, 62, 78 and 91. He played an almost flawless match to beat Juan Martin del Potro in the semifinals, and was just good enough against the fourth-seeded Zverev, a precocious 20-year-old German who was bidding for his third Masters 1000 title in the past 12 months.

The 6-foot-10 Isner’s serve allowed him to overcome inconsistent returning, a succession of botched volleys and shaky play at crunch time. He converted only two of 12 break-point chances and lost his final three service points in the tiebreaker.

But he gave Zverev only three break-point chances, and Isner’s serve was at its best down the stretch. He made 83 percent of his first serves in the final set.

With little margin for error, Zverev lost serve and fell behind 5-4 in the final set when he dumped a forehand into the net, and his frustration boiled over. He slammed his racket to the concrete, picked it up and slammed it again, and then tossed it gently to the stands as a mangled souvenir.

When Isner sealed the victory four points later, he also tossed his racket – but in celebration. He gave Zverev a warm hug and then skipped across the court, basking in his breakthrough.

As a reflection of the threat his serve poses, Isner improved to 6-2 against top-10 players since the start of 2017. He’ll climb to ninth in the rankings, which matches his career high.

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