Tennis

John Isner targets Miami Open title with a strong serve

John Isner returns serve against Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentine during the men's single semifinal at the Miami Open tennis tournament at Crandon Park Tennis Center in Key Biscayne on March 30, 2018.
John Isner returns serve against Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentine during the men's single semifinal at the Miami Open tennis tournament at Crandon Park Tennis Center in Key Biscayne on March 30, 2018. pportal@miamiherald.com

In the men’s final of the Miami Open on Sunday, keep your eyes on the serves, particularly those of John Isner.

Isner is credited with having the fastest official serve during ATP tour-level play. That would be 157.2 mph in the 2016 Davis Cup. Also, he has more than 8,800 aces in his ATP career.

When Isner meets up with Alexander Zverev for the title on Stadium Court at the Crandon Tennis Center on Key Biscayne at 1 p.m. Sunday, he is hoping to launch some of those overpowering serves at Zverev.

“Things are just clicking,” Isner said of his game heading into the final. “Look, if I’m returning well … that should bode well for me, given how I serve. Very happy it’s all coming together right now.”

Isner gives his coach, David Macpherson, some kudos for a recent turnaround in play. “Since I first got to Miami, we have been having dinner every night and talking some things over. So, it’s not a situation this week where I was just putting in the hard work. Of course, I was working hard, but I have been more relaxed on the court, and I think that’s showing in my play.”

His game plan for Sunday?

“I’m just going to focus on what I do well,” he said.

Of opponent Zverev, he assessed, “He’s the best young player in the game.”

Despite his booming and crowd-pleasing serve, Isner would have to be considered the underdog against Zverev.

Head-to-head, Zverev, age 20, is 3-0 against Isner. In addition, Isner, 32, has not had a great start to this season, recording a 2-6 record before coming to Miami. Then there are the rankings. Zverev, from Germany, is ranked No. 5 in the world and is the Miami Open’s fourth seed; Isner, an American, is ranked 17th in the world and is the tournament’s 14th seed.

Isner advanced to the final by beating Juan Martin del Potro, 6-1, 7-6 (6-2), in the semifinal, using 13 aces; Zverez also won his semifinal in straight sets, 7-6 (7-4), 6-2, winning the first-set tiebreaker after being down 0-3.

Zverev somewhat downplayed his performance in Miami.

“I think I’m playing OK,” he said. “I’m playing well now. Hopefully, I can continue so in the final, and we’ll see how that goes.”

A year ago, Zverev eliminated Isner from the Miami Open in the Round of 16, but Zverev says that has little bearing on Sunday’s meeting.

“I mean, look, it’s going to be a completely different match,” Zverev predicted.

Zverev, who is 6-6, comes somewhat close to matching Isner’s 6-10 height.

One thing Zverev is extremely aware of is the difficulty of Isner’s serve.

“He’s going to hit a lot of aces, a lot of winners. But I’m ready for it, and hopefully it will be another great one.”

Before Sunday’s spectators start automatically rooting for American Isner over the German Zverev, they should be aware of one thing. Zverev spends much of his time living and practicing in Florida and has become a huge Heat fan.

Overall, Zverev said, “I’m happy where I am at right now now.”

Actually, that would be true for both Zverev and Isner — playing in a final is always a nice place to be.

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