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Isner earns biggest win, beating Zverev in Miami Open final

John Isner
The Associated Press

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. (AP) — John Isner won the biggest title of his 14-year career on Sunday, holding every service game and rallying past Alexander Zverev in the Miami Open final, 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-4.

The 32-year-old Isner previously had been 0-3 in ATP Masters 1000 finals. His breakthrough came in the last singles match on Key Biscayne before the Miami Open moves next year to the NFL Dolphins’ stadium.

Seeded 14th, Isner became the first American man to win the tournament since Andy Roddick in 2010. Isner joined Sloane Stephens, who won the women’s title Saturday, for the first U.S. sweep in the event since 2004, when the champions were Roddick and Serena Williams.

The start of the last game was delayed by the crowd’s chants of “U-S-A!” Isner then held at love, and on the final three points he smacked aces, giving him 18 for the match and 79 for the tournament.

Isner’s title run surprised even him because he arrived at Key Biscayne with a record of 1-6 this year, including losses to players with rankings of 60, 62, 78 and 91. He played an almost flawless match to beat Juan Martin del Potro in the semifinals, and was just good enough against the fourth-seeded Zverev, a precocious 20-year-old German who was bidding for his third Masters 1000 title in the past 12 months.

The 6-foot-10 Isner’s serve allowed him to overcome inconsistent returning, a succession of botched volleys and shaky play at crunch time. He converted only two of 12 break-point chances and lost his final three service points in the tiebreaker.

But he gave Zverev only three break-point chances, and Isner’s serve was at its best down the stretch. He made 83 percent of his first serves in the final set.

With little margin for error, Zverev lost serve and fell behind 5-4 in the final set when he dumped a forehand into the net, and his frustration boiled over. He slammed his racket to the concrete, picked it up and slammed it again, and then tossed it gently to the stands as a mangled souvenir.

When Isner sealed the victory four points later, he also tossed his racket — but in celebration. He gave Zverev a warm hug and then skipped across the court, basking in his breakthrough.

As a reflection of the threat his serve poses, Isner improved to 6-2 against top-10 players since the start of 2017. He’ll climb to ninth in the rankings, which matches his career high.

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Follow Steven Wine on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Steve_Wine . His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/steven-wine

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