Miami Open 2019 Recap: Federer Beats Isner in Finals to Claim 101st Career Title

Roger Federer on clay PA

The change of venue for this year’s Miami Open seems to have boosted the event with plenty of memorable on-court action. Sandwiched between the Australian Open and the French Open, which naturally draw in bigger audiences given their Grand Slam status, the Miami Open, while still being a critical event on the calendar, has never had the same allure as Roland Garros tournament. But 2019 changed all that with the move from Crandon Park to the home of the Miami Dolphins, the state-of-the-art Hard Rock Stadium.

Title Wins and a Return to the Court

Looking back at the event, there were some incredible moments that we got to witness this year. In the Women’s Singles, Australia’s Ashleigh Barty cinched her first Miami Open title and entered the WTA Top 10 for the first time. And eight months after hip surgery, the resurgent Bob Bryan returned to the winner’s circle in the Men’s Doubles event, along with his brother Mike. The two Bryans defeated Stefanos Tsitsipas and Wesley Koolhof 7-5 7-6 (6), claiming their 39th Masters 1000-level trophy in the process.

However, it was the Men’s Singles Finals that has arguably given us the most to talk about this year. The showdown between the defending champion John Isner and the G.O.A.T. Roger Federer gave us an upset and made tennis history in the process.

Isner vs. Federer

Walking into the match, John Isner was the favorite to win, with some bookmakers even giving tips on the first set going to a tie-break. Fate had other plans, however, and Federer walked out of match not only with the win but his 101st career singles title.

The stands were almost full of fans, with the spectators and the stage set, but within moments, it was clear that Federer would walk away with the championship. After breaking in the opening game and twice in the first set, which only lasted 24 minutes, Federer was able to neutralize the 6’10” American’s legendary big serve, winning 32 out of 35 points on his serve. Visibly limping after damaging his foot in the second set, Isner had to scramble for rallies against the veteran Swiss, who was on tip-top form. Visibly drained during the later stages of the match, Isner at least made it to the finish line but wasn’t able to retain the title. Federer won 6-1 6-4.

The Road to the Finals

Isner may not have been able to hold on to the Men’s Singles title this year, but his journey to the epic finals was a real master class in tennis. The World No. 9 didn’t drop a single set in the lead up to the championship match this year, even going 9-0 in tie-breaks against Roberto Bautista Agut, Kyle Edmund and Felix Auger-Aliassime in the semifinals. He may have lost the last match in the tournament, but he well and truly dominated the two weeks leading up to it.

Federer, on the other hand, is the most seasoned Miami Open competitor there is, having played here consistently for 20 years. Debuting way back in 1999 when he secured a wild card entry, he is the only male player who participated then to still compete in singles matches today. Federer made it to his first final only three years later, in 2002, against the then-World No. 2, Andre Agassi. He secured the title in 2005, 2006 and once again in 2017 — that thrilling year when he raced his way back to the top of the ATP rankings after knee surgery.

His performance in the 2018 Miami Open, however, which still played out at Crandon Park, was a shocking disappointment. In what was the biggest upset of the 2018 tennis season, Federer lost the opening round to the then-175th-ranked Aussie player, Thanasi Kokkinakis. The 21-year-old was the lowest-ranked player that Federer had lost to in 18 years and was also the lowest-ranked player to topple a World No. 1 since 2003 (when No. 178 Francisco Clavet defeated Lleyton Hewitt at the same event). Determined not to repeat last year’s mistakes, Federer sailed through five consecutive matches in 2019, winning them all with straight sets.

Roger Federer sliding on clay

At 37-years-old and still as smooth as ever on the court during a time when most of his compatriots have since retired or made the switch to less-taxing doubles’ events, the “Swiss Maestro” continues to defy the ravages of time. With an almost perfect 18-2 record so far this season, after winning the Miami Open last month, Federer became the first singles player (male or female) to win multiple singles titles in 2019. Then there’s that small matter of 101 ATP singles titles, which include a record 20 Grand Slams, another record six ATP Finals and 28 ATP Masters 1000 titles. He’s yet to top Don Budge’s record of six consecutive Grand Slam titles, but if he continues playing the way he has this season, we’d argue there’s still plenty of time for that!