Miami Final: Isner vs Federer


Seems like we’ve seen this match many times.

The ledger says it’s 5-2 H2H though their last meeting was an Isner win at the the Paris Masters in 2015. So, they haven’t played in a while.

We’ll say this: Big John has become a better finisher later in his career, has a better ROS and can wield the ground strokes from both sides better than one might at first think; any of this pressure is beyond the massive serve, so he often doesn’t even need to do much with this ROS or rallies, etc.  He can pound you with the serve, can come to net as you’re reaching, stretching and praying to get the ball back.

Indeed, Big John usually only needs his serve. Which means if his ROS shows-up at all, or he can out hit you at all in some big point exchanges, you’re in trouble.

We know the routine (yesterday I called it his M.O.): taking his opponent to the dungeon where he ruins them in a TB flogging.

Again, big-time credit to Isner for breaking-back against Auger-Aliassime. That is NOT his M.O. Felix was up 15-0 in both of those service games he lost to John at those critical moments. Just a collapse from the young Canadian, but John did his part.

But he gets Federer now.

Federer made pretty easy work of Shapovalov, which was to be expected. This Canadian’s game needs some tightening; we called it (like Tiafoe’s) a looser, more aggressive style that has an affinity for unforced errors.

Federer attacked the kid’s BH at will, which almost seemed unfair. Shapo needs a fortnight to manifest that stroke.

Denis made himself proud in the second set with some solid service holds and better ball-striking. But Federer had already done the damage.

You have to wonder how much better Federer would have been throughout his career had he been more strategic, tactful in his specific game plan for specific players. We saw the BH slice ruin Anderson and the attack of Shapo’s BH as two easy examples.

I recall watching Federer through the years pretty much try to out-play his opponents by resigning to do so playing to his opponent’s style, to his strengths. Maybe this was part of his confidence or arrogance. His versatility enabled him to play any style, most often better than anyone else (S&V, from the BL, attack with top-spin, slow death with the slice, etc.). Of course, he usually incorporates all of these elements at once.

His ROS continues to be spot-on, so we have to think he’ll get a look at a few of Isner’s service games. And I suspect he’ll move the American all-over the court, side-to-side, bring him in and low with the slice: this will be tough on the 6’10” Isner.

Federer’s serve should be more than enough as well.

We have to like Federer in this Final. Can he break this curse of his, having lost his last two Masters Finals?

Advantage Big John if they proceed to the TB dungeon, but I like Federer in more routine fashion.

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