Federer Ready For Goalie Duty vs. Isner
Roger Federer has the picture already formed in his head: He's crouched behind the service line, on his tip toes, ready to pounce on anything that comes his way, and John Isner, his opponent in the Miami final, stands across from him, throwing down bullet serves.
The question that might determine if Federer wins his 28th ATP Masters 1000 title on Sunday: How many serves can he stop from hitting the back wall?
“I honestly love big servers, to watch them, [to see] if they're going to ace every second or third point. For me, that's exciting because it's like a penalty shootout in [football], it's just in tennis,” Federer said during his on-court interview with ESPN. “I'll be the goalie on Sunday. I'll try my very best. I'll try to get as many balls back as possible.”
The three-time Miami Open presented by Itau champion has done David de Gea impressions well in the past against Isner. Federer leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 5-2, which includes a straight-sets win in the 2012 BNP Paribas Open final in Indian Wells. Isner won their most recent tour-level meeting, at the 2015 Rolex Paris Masters.
“I know what to expect – that he will not miss many serves. He's got an amazing serve. One of the best in the game, forever. It's really hard to play against him,” Federer said.
The Swiss moved into his fifth Miami final with ease on Friday night, beating #NextGenATP Canadian Denis Shapovalov 6-2, 6-4. Federer hasn't dropped a set since his tournament opener against Moldovan Radu Albot.
But the 37-year-old's semi-final against the 18-year-old Shapovalov wasn't just any other match, Federer admitted. He feels a bit more amped when facing members of the #NextGenATP.
“I told my daughters before I walked out tonight that he wasn't even born yet when I actually played on the pro tour already,” said Federer, who turned pro in 1998, one year before Shapovalov was, in fact, born. “So they're like, 'What? Hold on a second.' They did the calculations. 'So this guy's really young?' I was like, 'Yeah, I'm really old.' But it's all good. It definitely gives me an extra pep. No doubt about it.”
Isner, the defending champion, returned to the Miami final with a 7-6(3), 7-6(4) win against Shapovalov's friend and countryman 18-year-old Felix Auger-Aliassime. The teenager served for both sets.
“Hopefully we'll have a good match,” Federer told ESPN. “I'm excited to play John because he really had a tough match against Felix today. That was an awesome performance by him.”
The 33-year-old American has won all 10 sets he's played and is 9-0 in tie-breaks.