Fluent Federer holds hard court advantage over ace-king Isner
Following the 7-6, 3-6, 7-6 shock victory that saw John Isner make his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 final, defeated world number one Novak Djokovic admitted to checking out the scoreboard during play to see just how fast his opponent’s serves really were.
“Sometimes just to admire, because I will never get there”, said the Serbian of their BNP Paribas Open semi-final. It was a magnanimous admission from a man who has found little fault with his game in the last year, but the stats back up just how powerful the 26-year-old’s service game was.
Isner, standing seven inches taller than his opponent at a towering 6ft 9in, hit 20 aces from a first-serve that found it’s target 74% of the time and regularly clocked above 140mph. Although Djokovic won 11 more points, Isner won when it counted most – his two sets coming from successful tie-breaks.
Isner is no stranger to tie-break victories this year – of the 13 he’s contested in 2012, he’s lost only two. It’s a scenario that favours players with a mean, and accurate, first serve, and Isner is on form.
Not only has he recorded a first American win over a current number one since James Blake’s Olympic success over Roger Federer in 2008, but regardless of the result against the same opponent in today’s final, Isner will break into the top ten for the first time in his career when the ATP Tour rankings are released next week.
Unfortunately for him, he’s facing a man in arguably finer form. In the tournament’s other semi-final, world number three Federer brushed aside Rafael Nadal in straight sets to find himself in his third consecutive tournament final, following wins in Dubai and Rotterdam.
Federer has now won 38 of the 40 matches since losing to Djokovic in last year’s US Open semi-final, rediscovering some of the fluency and potency that saw him dominate the men’s game for so long.
Despite this, his last loss did come at the hands of Isner, on clay, in the Davis Cup last month and Isner is 7/2 to repeat that success this evening.
However, Federer has won the only two other contests between these two – a straight sets victory in Shanghai in 2010 and a 6-7 6-2 6-4 6-2 win at the US Open in 2007, holding a 100% record over Isner on hard court.
Federer will join Nadal at the top on 19 ATP Masters 1000 titles with a win, but will know that he has lost both tie-breaks against the American, so will be keen to avoid being dragged into such a scenario this evening (a tie-break to feature in the match is 5/6).
Should he manage that, a straight sets Federer victory at 2-0 is the pick at 4/7.