The American John Isner will stay remembered as the last champion of Miami Masters at the Crandon Park in 2018 following a hard-fought 6-7, 6-4, 6-4 triumph over the 4th seed Alexander Zverev in two hours and 29 minutes!
Isner came to Miami with just two wins in 2018 but played great tennis in the last ten days to lift his biggest title 25 days before his 33rd birthday, entering the fourth Masters 1000 final and finally finishing on the winning side.
John was the first American champion in Miami since Andy Roddick in 2010 and also the third consecutive non-European player with the Masters 1000 title, after 69 trophies that went to the old continent before that streak!
Besides, Isner became the oldest first-time champion at the Masters 1000 level, passing Ivan Ljubicic from Indian Wells 2010 and becoming the 65th different Masters 1000 champion overall since 1990. John fired 18 aces and saved all three break chances to keep the pressure on Alexander who had to play against 12 break points, saving ten of those to at least keep himself in contention.
Nonetheless, the German dropped his serve in the ninth game of sets two and three to find himself on the losing side, missing a chance to win the third Masters 1000 title as only the fifth active player after Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray.
The American had 44 winners and 37 unforced errors, dominating with his serve and forehand despite too many mistakes from his forehand wing. In comparison, Zverev stayed on 22 winners and 24 errors, which wasn't enough to carry him home, losing ground when it mattered the most to propel John over the finish line.
It was important for both players to find the rhythm right from the start but we noticed break chances already in the second game when Zverev had to dig deep to remain unbroken. John squandered three opportunities and the last one could have been very costly since he missed an easy volley at the net.
Alexander had his chance on the return art 2-2 but Isner denied rival's break chance with an ace down the T line to stay on the positive side of the scoreboard. It was the American's turn to make some damage on the return at 3-2 again, creating two break points and wasting them both, with rock-solid service games in the rest of the set that transferred them into a tie break.
After four easy points on both sides, we saw five mini-breaks in a row and Zverev who opened a 5-4 gap after a costly double fault from Isner. The German won the next two points on serve to grab the breaker 7-4 after a grueling 58 minutes, looking good to lift his third Masters 1000 crown at the age of 20.
The second set was more fluid and returners won just six points in the opening eight games to stay neck and neck at 4-4. Out of sudden, Alexander couldn't bring home the ninth game after hitting a double fault, allowing Isner to grab a break with a crosscourt forehand winner that sent him 5-4 in front, serving for the set in the next game.
Instead of another comfortable hold, John faced two break points in that tenth game, repelling them both and closing the set with a service winner, sending the match into a decider after an hour and 43 minutes. The momentum was on Isner's side now, using it to sail through his service games in set number three after landing 83% of the first serve in and dropping three points in five service games!
Zverev couldn't follow that pace despite saving a break point at 1-1 and four more at 2-2 to keep himself in contention, hoping to somehow survive until the tie break. John had other plans, though, winning 12 of the last 14 points to seal the deal and celebrate his most significant success in a career just before the 33rd birthday.
Alexander opened the ninth game with a double fault and Isner fired a forehand winner to move 30-0 up, keeping the pressure on his young opponent. A backhand error from the German gave two break points to the American who converted the first when Zverev netted an easy forehand, earning a chance to serve for the triumph in the next game.
Staying focused, John completed the victory with an ace in game ten, starting a massive celebration in front of the delighted fans who witnessed the first American champion in Miami in eight years.