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Victory was swift and convincing for Roger Federer on Sunday at the Miami Open presented by Itau. The Swiss produced a championship masterclass under the Florida sun, dominating reigning champ John Isner 6-1, 6-4 to take his fourth tournament title and No. 101 in his storied career.
The battle between the last two Miami champions went the way of Federer in a flash, as he needed just 64 minutes to triumph. Federer toppled the big-serving American behind four breaks of serve and a staggering 32 of 35 points won on his own delivery.
"It was a dream start, relaxing my nerves [to break in the opening game]," said Federer. "What a week it's been for me. I'm just so happy right now. It's unbelievable. I played here in 1999 for the first time and here I am in 2019. It means a lot to me."
One week after falling to Dominic Thiem in the Indian Wells final, Federer was all business at the subsequent ATP Masters 1000 stop in Miami. He streaked to the title behind 12 consecutive sets won, refusing to back down after dropping his opening set of the tournament to Radu Albot.
Federer's fourth Miami title puts him two behind Andre Agassi and Novak Djokovic for most in tournament history. Moreover, it was his 101st in total at the tour-level, moving him just eight back of all-time leader Jimmy Connors.
Four years after their last encounter, revenge was sweet for Federer. In their first meeting since Isner got the best of the Swiss at the 2015 Paris Rolex Masters, it was one-way traffic for the World No. 5. He extended his FedEx ATP Head2Head lead to 6-2 over the top-ranked American, also marking his second triumph in a title match (2012 Indian Wells).
|Player||Masters 1000 Titles||Miami Titles|
|(1) Rafael Nadal||33||0|
|(2) Novak Djokovic||32||6|
|(3) Roger Federer||28||4|
|(4) Andre Agassi||17||6|
|(5) Andy Murray||14||2|
Much has changed since they last met four years ago, but Federer's serving prowess against Isner remains the same. Entering the final, he had saved a combined 16 of 16 break points against the North Carolina native on all surfaces. And he would drop just one point on serve in the opening set on Sunday.
Federer put the clamps down on Isner's mammoth delivery from the first ball, immediately applying pressure on the big-hitting American. He would convert his third break point of the opening game to send a message right out of the gates.
A hyper-aggressive Federer was on the attack in longer rallies, pouncing on every short ball and using his backhand slice to disrupt Isner's rhythm at the back of the court. And he consistently put the 33-year-old out of his comfort zone, often baiting him to come to the net. A running forehand pass secured a second break for the Basel native and he streaked to a one-set lead in a flash, needing just 24 minutes.
After cruising past Denis Shapovalov in the semis, Federer was keen to replicate the performance in the final. And after letting a commanding lead slip against Thiem in the BNP Paribas Open final, the World No. 5 refused to endure a similar fate. He successfully neutralised Isner's serve throughout the encounter and a left foot injury did not help the American's cause.
Federer crossed the finish line after 64 minutes as a hobbled Isner was unable to hold serve in the final game. He fired 17 winners overall, including six off his backhand wing, while benefiting from 16 unforced errors off Isner's racquet.
"I think I was very clear on how I wanted to play, so I think that helped that I was able to not just have the plan but then being able to execute," said Federer. "It's always two things, having the plan and then it not working. And of course to win every single point [on my first serve], things need to go your way against him. So there needs to be both sides to the thing because he did have chances obviously to win some points. But apparently also on my second serve I hardly dropped any points.
"I just can be very happy on either end, return and serve, and that's why I'm so happy that I was able to produce a performance like this in a finals, because this is what you train for and play for that constantly keeps your level going up as the tournament progresses. And this was my best. I'm very excited."
The 37-year-old is the first champion at the new Hard Rock Stadium, securing his 28th ATP Masters 1000 trophy in total. It was his first victory at the elite level since Shanghai in 2017.
Federer has not only reached three straight finals, posting a 15-1 record in that span, but he adds a Miami crown to his championship silverware in Dubai. He is the first player to win multiple titles this year, ending the streak of 19 winners from 19 events.
Meanwhile, defending champ Isner was bidding for his second Masters 1000 title and 15th in total on the ATP Tour. He caps another impressive fortnight in Miami, which saw him not drop a set en route to the final, including nine of nine tie-breaks won. Moreover, Isner claimed his first Top 30 wins since the US Open with a Round of 16 victory over Kyle Edmund and quater-final defeat of Roberto Bautista Agut.
"Somewhere along in the first set I started feeling some pain on the top of my foot, and it didn't go away," said Isner. "It only kept getting worse. It's a terrible feeling, because you're on an island out there, and you have no teammates to hide behind. I was going up against the greatest player ever, playing in this incredible atmosphere and my foot's killing me.
"Not that I would have won the match, anyways, let's make that clear, but I think I could have made for a more interesting match and one that was a little more fun. Roger was too good. In the first five games, I was fine. Nothing was bothering me. He was all over me. Then there was this weird pain on the top of my foot. I'm hoping it's nothing, but we'll see."