John Isner and Juan Martin del Potro met in the 2018 Miami semi-final. Isner scored a 6-1, 7-6 triumph in an hour and 23 minutes, advancing into his fourth Masters 1000 final in front of the home fans. The American played one of his best sets ever in the opener.
He prevailed in the second to seal the deal and remain on the title course. The 32-year-old kept the points on his racquet and managed to end Juan Martin's impressive streak of 15 consecutive wins. The Argentine conquered Acapulco and Indian Wells before heading to Florida, reaching the last four but failing to crack Isner's serves.
Juan Martin spent almost three hours on the court in the previous duel against Milos Raonic, needing more energy for another mighty server. Isner came to Miami with only two wins that season, finding his A-game and dominating with his initial shot and from the baseline.
Del Potro could not find his range, hitting fewer errors than Isner but standing far behind in the winners department. Also, Juan Martin missed his chances in the second set, ending his run in the semi-final. John served at 64% and never faced a single break point.
He dropped 11 points on serve in the entire match and none in the tie break when it mattered the most. On the other hand, del Potro landed in only 49% of the first serve, playing under constant pressure in his games in the opening set.
The Argentine played against three break points, which is not that much. He stayed on level terms with the American in the second set before the tie break, where he gave his serve away three times. John led 27-17 in service winners, but it is interesting to notice they were not separated by that much in the serving department before the second set's tenth game, with 16 unreturned serves for each.
Suddenly, John blasted eight service winners in the final two service games, adding three more in the tie break and making the difference. Isner was even more impressive from the field.
John Isner fired 50 winners versus Juan Martin del Potro in Indian Wells 2018.
He used every shorter ball to fire a bullet from his forehand, finishing on 23 winners compared to only six from the Argentinian.
Del Potro struggled to keep the shots on his racquet and move Isner away from his comfort zone with his groundstrokes that worked so well in the last couple of weeks. With such an aggressive approach, we could also expect more errors from the American.
However, he finished with 14 unforced mistakes, seven more than his opponent. John had four forced errors more than Juan Martin (11-7), but it was not enough for the Argentine to stay competitive. John landed 50 direct points and 26 errors, leaving Juan Martin on a more reduced 23-17 ratio.
Del Potro had a slim advantage in the most advanced rallies between five and 12 shots, leading 17-13. Isner easily erased that deficit in the quickest exchanges up to four strokes, dismantling his opponent 54-32. Besides that extra ten service winners, John was much more efficient with his first groundstroke, imposing his strokes with strong forehands and keeping his backhand safe.
Isner produced four fine holds in the opener and grabbed breaks in games two and six for 6-1 in no time. Del Potro raised his level in the second set, fending off a break point in the ninth game and reaching a tie break. Isner saved his best tennis for the breaker, firing seven winners and moving over the top in style.