© Corinne Dubreuil//ATP Tour

John Isner is a three-time Mutua Madrid Open quarter-finalist.

Isner Upsets Rublev In Madrid

The American takes on Thiem in the quarter-finals

John Isner knocked out sixth seed Andrey Rublev 7-6(4), 3-6, 7-6(4) at the Mutua Madrid Open on Thursday. The World No. 39 moves into his second quarter-final appearance of the season and faces Dominic Thiem for a place in the semi-finals.

“I’m very happy,” Isner said. “I wasn’t the better player out there today; I did win the match. My serve kept me in it. There’s a reason he’s won so many matches this year.”

Until Madrid, Rublev had advanced to the quarter-finals or better in all seven of his tour-level appearances and entered his second meeting with Isner with a 27-6 match record in 2021. Isner had won their only previous ATP Head2Head meeting in Miami six years ago.

The upset marks Isner’s first Top 10 win since beating Alexander Zverev at the Laver Cup in 2019, and his first Top 10 win at an ATP Masters 1000 event since winning the Miami crown in 2018.

"It's a nice feather in my cap right now with my ranking being a little bit lower," Isner said. "I haven't played much since the tour stopped last year. I think this is my only seventh event. I haven't had many matches. But to beat a guy like that, maybe being a little bit undercooked, is a very special moment for me."

Isner hit 28 aces inside Arantxa Sanchez Stadium, bringing his total for the week across three matches to 88. It’s the 61st time the American has won a deciding tie-break (61-49), and it’s his second in a row after beating Roberto Bautista Agut 6-4, 6-7(4), 7-6(6) on Wednesday.

"It is my favorite clay court probably," Isner said. "It has an indoor feel even though it's not fully indoors. It's got a great sound to it. The court is fast. To me it doesn't seem like there's too much clay on the court so, of all the clay courts I play on, it plays closest to a hard court of any of them. The altitude in Madrid just really helps my serve. The ball goes through the air very fast. You put all those things together, it's a good recipe for me to do some damage on serve."

Against Rublev, Isner racked up 21 winners in the first set to Rublev's 11 as neither player saw a break point opportunity. Isner took early control of the tie-break for 4/0 and closed it out 7/4.

Rublev would pick up his level in the second set to extend the rallies and he capitalised on his first break point for 2-1 as well as another break point at 5-3. Rublev converted on 100 per cent of his chances in the set while Isner managed just five winners. When the third set ultimately went to a deciding tie-break, Isner jumped on the first lead for 5/3 and it would be enough to seal the victory.

"I'm actually pretty surprised right now to be in the quarterfinals," Isner said. "I probably played two tournaments in three years on clay. I'm happy to be in the quarterfinals. I've been in this spot before; I guess I'm no stranger to making it this far at this event."

Thiem leads the ATP Head2Head Series 2-1 against Isner but they haven’t faced off since 2017. Thiem topped Alex de Minaur earlier on Thursday 7-6(7), 6-4.

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