Much like the women’s final, the men’s title match will feature two very good players who, after sputtering out of the gates in 2018, few expected to make season-changing turnarounds in Miami.

The 32-year-old Isner and the 20-year-old Zverev are players from different generations, but they have a long history together. It goes back to Zverev’s days as a tween tagalong of his older brother Mischa’s at the Saddlebrook Academy in Florida, when Isner was training there. Maybe that familiarity has helped Zverev, because he’s 3-0 against the more-experienced American. Their best and closest contest, which went to three tiebreakers, came in the second round in Miami 12 months ago. If this match is anything like that one, entertainment-wise, we’re in for something good.

Match point from Zverev’s win over Carreno Busta in Miami: 

Like Sloane Stephens and Jelena Ostapenko, Zverev and Isner have looked like their old, better selves over the last 10 days. Zverev has left the loopy, spinny, passively uncertain game of the last six months behind, and has played with the flat, two-winged attack that brought him two Masters 1000 titles in 2017. For his part, Isner played one of the most single-minded and tactically astute matches of his career to end Juan Martin del Potro’s 15-match win streak in the semifinals. After witnessing that display, Zverev joked that maybe they could outlaw the serve and just play from the baseline in the final. But would he be able to handle Isner’s 117-m.p.h. forehand?

If Isner plays with that same relentlessness and quality in the final, he should win; there’s not much anyone can do if he’s not only hitting his spots on his serve, but also playing lights out from the back of the court. But the chances of Zverev’s level staying where it’s been this week—i.e. very high—seem like a better bet to me.


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