John Isner stunned World No. 1 Novak Djokovic 7-6 (7), 3-6, 7-6 (5) to gain his first Masters final while Roger Federer defeated Rafael Nadal for the first time on an outdoor hardcourt since 2005 at the BNP Paribas Open.
Isner pounded 20 aces past Djokovic in the almost three-hour match. Isner will try to become the first American winner at Indian Wells since Andre Agassi in 2001.
â€œI knew going into the match that I had to, you know, stay loose and go for my shots,â€ said Isner.Â â€œAlso knew going into the match that I was going to make a lot of mistakes, but I also knew I was gonna hit some winners.
â€œAs long as I was playing aggressively through the whole match, whether I win or lose, I was going to be happy with the result.
â€œThe first set was really key, because, you know, he came out and got on top of me early.Â Obviously meÂ 5-4 I think I got back on serve.Â That gave me a lot of momentum.Â And winning that first set tiebreaker, I knew that I was firmly in the match.
â€œAt that pointÂ I believed I could win the match, but at that point it was within my reach.â€
The win also has ensured that the American will break into the top ten for the first time in his career.
â€œI knew going into this year that I had the tools and I had the game to be able to at least compete with these guys. I take the court no matter who Iâ€™m playing expecting to win and believing to win,â€ said Isner.
â€œI’ve just kept on surprising myself after each year.Â After a certain point I think when I reached in the top 50 in the world â€‘ that’s actually when I actually did believe I could crack the top 10.
â€œBut I’ve just kept on improving.Â I’ve always been a late bloomer.Â I was a decent junior, nothing special.Â I was a decent player my first years in college.Â I became the No. 1 player in college my junior year.
â€œSo I’ve always improved as I’ve gotten older.Â And I am 26, which isn’t exactly young, but I feel like my best tennis is still ahead of me.Â And I would also say I don’t quite have the miles on my body that a lot of other players have because I haven’t been out here since I was 17 or 18.
“I did surprise myself, but now that I am inside the top 10, I feel like I do belong there.Â I want to try my best to, you know, stay in the top 10 for a while.â€
Isner had a 74 percent first serve percentage which frustrated Djokovic. â€œItâ€™s a lot of pressure knowing that somebody serves that well. You need to win your service points, especially when you get to the tiebreak,â€ Djokovic said. â€œBut this time I was unlucky. He didnâ€™t wait for it, he went for it.â€
Federer and Nadal had to deal with the wind, cool temperatures and rain drops in the three-hour rain-delayed match.
â€œ..Just very happy that a tough week like this gives me an opportunity to win the tournament.Â Really it’s unbelievable that I never thought I would come so far,â€ noted Federer.
â€œIt’s been a great week so far, and it’s another opportunity tomorrow to make it even more special.Â Obviously conditions were tough today, and against one of my greatest rivals, it’s always nice if you come out on top.
â€œI have had doubts in the past against Rafa,â€ Federer said.Â â€œIt’s just normal, I guess.Â If you get destroyed like in the finals of Paris, next time you play him around, which for me unfortunately was the Wimbledon finals, that epic one we had, of course you’ll be affected a little bit, even though now you are on your favorite surface potentially.
â€œBut it did take maybe potentially take me a set or two to shake that off, and then it cost me the match in the end.Â So sometimes I’ve gone into matches with Rafa where I knew it was gonna probably gonna be difficult at this point because either maybe he’s coming in on an incredible hot streak or â€œI’m coming in from an end where I know I probably shouldn’t be winning this match tonight just because I’m not feeling right, my game is not up to par.
â€œI’ve maybe come through some other matches against other players, but against Rafa it’s a different story.Â So tonight I felt good about my game.Â I guess I had a noâ€‘lose mentality.Â You know, I’ve not felt great this week.Â I didn’t expect myself to play so well tonight, and this is sometimes when you can pull off the biggest wins of your career.
â€œThat’s where I’m happy I gave myself a chance this week.â€
â€œHe was better than me, and thatâ€™s it,â€ said Nadal. â€œI understand what I had to do too late to have more chances to win the match.â€
Federer had to fight off break points in opening game, broke Nadal and held for a 3-0 lead. Nadal got the break back and then lost it in the eighth game, after which Federer served out the set 6-3.
In the second set Federer broke Nadal twice and served for the match with a 5-2 lead. Nadal broke the Swiss and held to narrow the gap to 4-5. At 5-4, 40-30 with Federer at match point, the raindrops returned and play was halted. Less than five minutes later Federer fired an ace out wide for the match.
Federer on playing Isner in the final: â€I will be interested to see how it goes tomorrow.Â Without taking anything away from John in Switzerland, (Federer lost to Isner last month in a Davis Cup tie against the USA) the conditions were extremely tough for both of the players.Â It was altitude, it was a clay that was virtually unplayable.Â Every second bounce had a bad bounce in it.
â€œAt the end when he was up, whatever 5-2 in the fourth with a break in hand, what’s the point of pushing the ball in?
â€œHe went for it and hit a couple of return winners.Â He had an amazing fourth set, but it was difficult conditions for us to play.
â€œSo tomorrow hopefully will be a bit more normal and I can answer your questions, because the only match I can look back to is the tough match at Davis Cup on indoor clay, which normally doesn’t happen.
â€œI know how difficult it’s going to be tomorrow.Â John is playing great tennis at the moment, and I’m sure for a long period of time.Â It’s great and exciting for American tennis, and I’m happy it’s happening in the finals, this rematch for me.Â So I look forward to that a lot.â€