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By Richard Pagliaro | Sunday, March 31, 2019

Roger Federer

Roger Federer demolished defending champion John Isner, 6-1, 6-4, in the Miami Open final to capture his 101st career title.

Photo credit: Laver Cup Facebook

MIAMI—Tennis is all about timing and Roger Federer sustains timeless tennis.

The 37-year-old Federer demolished defending champion John Isner, 6-1, 6-4, in the Miami Open final to capture his 101st career championship, including his 28th Masters crown.

Federer: How To Return Isner's Serve

Delivering a near-flawless serving performance against one of the game's most dominant servers, Federer was a perfect 20 for 20 on first-serve points won, stamped four shutout service holds and permitted just three points total on serve winning 32 of 35 service 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 your level keeps going up as the tournament progresses," Federer said. "And this was my best. I'm very excited."

It is Federer’s fourth career Miami championship and first at the Hard Rock Stadium a full 17 years after Federer fell to Andre Agassi in the 2002 final at Crandon Park on Key Biscayne.

“It’s been an absolutely super-long journey,” Federer said. “I got a wild card here back in ‘99 and made my first final here back in 2002 vs. Andre Agassi. “Miami’s always been my first sort of tournament I traveled to internationally as a junior so to stand right here really means a lot. To stand here after so many years its absolutely incredible.”

There is a time and place for everything.

And today’s final against the 20-time Grand Slam champion was not the time or place for a hobbled Isner, who wore taping wrapping his left knee, took treatment for a left foot injury, was broken in the opening game and never really threatened an overwhelming Federer. 

The 33-year-old Isner said the pain he felt on top of his left foot continued to worsen as the match progressed.

Though on this day Isner, who had not surrendered a set in reaching his second straight Miami final, would have been hard-pressed to stay in step with the Swiss stylist even if perfectly healthy.

"Somewhere along in the first set I started feeling some pain on the top of my foot, and it didn't go away," Isner said. "It only kept getting worse. It's a terrible feeling, because you're on an island out there, and, you know, you have no teammates to hide behind and going up against the greatest player ever, you know, 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, you know, I think I could have made for a more interesting match and one that was a little more fun."

The oldest combined final in the tournament’s 35-year-history pitted a pair of former champions and was one-way traffic from the first ball.

Contesting his 50th career Masters final, Federer burst out of the blocks quickly earning double break point in the opening game.

The defending champion denied both, smacking an ace down the middle to save the second, only to see Federer fire a forehand pass for a third break point. Dragging the big man forward with the short-angled return, Federer put Isner in a place he didn’t want to be drawing a shanked forehand to break five minutes into the match.

Sliding a 123 mph ace down the middle, the 37-year-old Swiss quickly consolidated.

Perspiration was pouring from the defending champion’s backward baseball cap plopping onto the court as Federer’s cumulative pressure ratcheted up in the fifth game. Isner poked a backhand wide to face a third break point.

Twenty-one years into his pro career, Federer’s fast feet, fluid movement and quickness changing direction in the corners is still a major asset. Moving the lanky Isner laterally, Federer fired a forehand winner down the line scoring his second break in three service games for 4-1.

The man in the mint green shirt streaked through his second straight love hold jamming the former Georgia bulldog with a body serve to build a 5-1 lead after only 20 minutes.

One of the most imposing servers in Open Era history looked helpless to hold as Federer carved out the short chip return to displace Isner from the baseline and set up clean passing shot opportunities.

Rolling through his third break of the set, Federer committed just two unforced errors in a rousing 24-minute opening set that snapped Isner’s streak of 12 straight sets in Miami dating back to his three-set triumph over Alexander Zverev in the 2018 final.

At that point, the only drama was would the seventh-seeded American push the final past the one-hour mark.

Isner stayed in step through the first six games of the second set.

The ease and efficiency of Federer’s service holds tightened the vice grip of pressure on the towering American. Federer won 16 of 18 points on serve building a 4-3 second set lead when Isner took a medical timeout for treatment of a left foot issue.

"I knew at 3-4, whatever, I knew I wasn't going to win," Isner said. "I can tell you that much. Which is a weird feeling, you know, being on serve in the finals of a match and knowing that I wasn't going to win.

"Look, Roger was too good. In the first five games, I was fine. Nothing was bothering me. He was all over me. Then, you know, this weird pain on the top of my foot, we'll see what is. I'm hoping it's nothing, but we'll see."

The Stevie Wonder classic “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” blared over the sound system as Isner returned to court desperate to gain a foothold in a largely lopsided match.

As Federer rushed through a love hold for 5-4, a hobbled Isner limped near the side wall looking like he might just sit down on court. Struggling to stretch out his left leg during the ensuing changeover, Isner again called for the trainer during the ensuing changeover.

On his second championship point, Federer closed a 63-minute rout when Isner sailed a backhand beyond the baseline. The ball was initially called good, but the Swiss correctly challenged the call and replay showed the ball landed long.

Weeks after Federer failed to close the Indian Wells final against Dominic Thiem, he played a flawless final vs. Isner conceding afterward he surprised himself in the process.

"This one just feel like also I didn't expect it, to be honest," Federer said sitting in front of the crystal trophy in his post-match interview. "Because I knew the problems of the year I had last year, that I went through a similar situation with, you know, losing in a very close finals in Indian Wells and coming here again and seeing what could happen."

In a new venue, Federer played some timeless tennis winning his 28th career Masters title, which puts hims behind rivals Rafael Nadal (33) and Novak Djokovic (32) on the all-time Masters list. 

"These Masters 1000s are hard to win," Federer said. "They are really a test for me, especially later in my career. So I know these guys don't come around very often, so when they do, it's a bit of a surprise for me. That's why this one feels really cool in many ways."


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