By Tucker Verdi
When John Isner was 20, he was a sophomore at the University of Georgia, likely not thinking of a long career in professional tennis. He took the uncommon route of attending college, so that wasn’t a foregone conclusion for him.
A lot has changed for the North Carolina native, including ten years at the top level of men’s tennis, ATP records for the longest match and the fastest serve, and life as a married man following his wedding in December of last year.
Now 32, Isner has seen the highs and lows of the sport. The now-tour veteran has captured 12 titles, played in 3 Masters 1000 finals, and reached the top 10 of the world rankings.
Today, he will play in his fourth Masters 1000 final, this time at the Miami Open. His opponent will be Alexander Zverev, who is 20 himself and has been playing professionally since he was 15.
Isner and Zverev play similar games but followed very different career paths to this moment. And on Sunday they will clash with the Miami Open title on the line.
Coming into the final, the 6’6” Zverev and the 6’10” Isner have almost identical stat lines during the fortnight. Isner has the only significant advantage, having served up 61 aces compared to Zverev’s 36.
Even more is on the line for the two players than the Butch Buchholz Trophy and a $1.3 million payday. Both players will return to their career-high rankings with a win, with Zverev back to No. 3 and Isner back to No. 9 – almost 6 years removed from when he reached that peak spot in 2012.
Zverev will no doubt be fresher with the age advantage, but Isner has to be looking forward to their fourth meeting – even though he is 0-and-3 against the German thus far – as he is playing his best tennis right now. It is also a better matchup for the big man, as he’ll be going toe-to-toe with another big-swinging player instead of the all-court game of other semifinalist Pablo Carreno Busta, who would’ve kept Isner running around the court.
The wait is almost over as the two towering figures in stature clash on Stadium Court on Sunday, April 1 at 1:00 PM. With the way their last match in Miami went – a 6-7(5), 7-6(7), 7-6(5) third round win by Zverev – this one figures to be a barnburner.