John Isner went deep and gritty to take the Miami Open title yesterday, defeating Alexander Zverev in three close sets after losing his lead in the first-set tiebreak. With Sloan Stephens hoisting the trophy on the women’s side after a no-nonsense two-set win over Jelena Ostapenko, American players put their signatures on what has been a fortnight of farewells to Key Biscayne’s storied Crandon Park tennis facility and its Stadium center court.
Also on Saturday Mike and Bob Bryan won the men’s doubles, and earlier yesterday Coco Vandeweghe, playing with Australian star Ashleigh Barty won the women’s.
Isner played power against movement against Zverev. His strategy was to finish points early; Zverev, who at six-six is no slouch when it comes to power tennis, concentrated on shooting for the sidelines to keep the six-ten American moving. This is a perfunctory way to put it; Zverev held many games on his service power, and Isner got crucial winners past the young German. But in a match like this, which comes down to one or two points to seize the edge, you are advised to stay with what works best.
Zverev double faulted on game point at 4-4, then shanked a forehand. With the advantage, Isner kept a high bounding rally going to prevent Zverev from setting up a winner with a low backhand, which would have been his tactic, and waited for his chance to hit a huge forehand crosscourt. It just touched the line, Isner kept the point for the break.
That one point gave him the set, as he held serve. It took some effort — Zverev had several break points that Isner kept saving with iron nerve and some remarkably close ones to the lines. Finally he hit a big second serve to pull Zverev over the alley and make him hit a backhand into the net. Then in the last set, they went point for point and game for game through 4-4 until Zverev made a simple error and lost his cool, smashed his racquet, and blew his service. Serving for match, Isner held at love, three aces.
In the same way, Sloane Stephens stuck to her own game, which against the Latvian furia consisted of relentlessly working — and running — to get one more shot back. Rather than being overwhelmed by the other’s powerful balls to the lines, she wore her down with her saves and deft placements.
It was the first Masters title for both players.
Stephen Ross, the owner of the Miami Dolphins, is building what promises to be a new facility at Hard Rock Stadium, if I understand correctly. This is undoubtedly going to be a beaut, and it appears to be necessary since disputes over land use precluded desired improvements at Crandon Park. But you cannot but fear for the continued theme-parking of sports venues.
All things must pass, I suppose, and all tickets must get pricier. It was nice to see — even on TV — Serena Williams and Roger Federer play their last Crandon Park tournaments, even if they both lost their first matches, Miss Williams to the Indian Wells winner Naomi Osaka and Federer to the Zverev-contemporary Borna Coric. Novak Djokovic, multiple title holder here, also lost early; Andy Murray and Rafa Nadal were absent. Venus Williams got to the quarters. So in a way it is a fitting time to say goodbye (especially as the Bryan boys, who were talking about retiring last year, showed you can always come back again). The show goes on.