05 Nov 2016
The American reached his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 final of the season on Saturday, dismissing Marin Cilic 6-4, 6-3 at the BNP Paribas Masters semi-finals in Paris. Isner saved the only break point he faced and wasn't bothered on his first serve, winning 86 per cent of those points and hitting 18 aces.
The unseeded Isner, who hasn't won a title this season, will go for his first crown of the year and his first Masters 1000 title against Andy Murray, who advanced to the final by walkover against Milos Raonic (right leg).
“I took the court today with a lot of confidence. It's the first time all year coming into a match I'd won four matches in a row. So I knew I was playing well. I knew I was playing the right way, and really, from the get-go, I was serving extremely well. That took a lot of pressure off me,” Isner said. “[Facing Andy] is going to be a huge challenge for me, but that's what makes this game so awesome and so tough at the same time. There are so many great players, and Andy, of course, is one of the all-time greats in my opinion. I have never beaten him before. He's had my number. But also I had never beaten Cilic before coming into this match.”
Cilic looked to be in top form heading into Saturday's semi-final. The Croatian had just beaten Novak Djokovic for the first time in his 15th attempt, and he owned a perfect 6-0 record against Isner before Saturday. But Isner's serve and aggressive return game carried him against the 6'6” Cilic, who was broken three times.
“I was just taking my cuts from the back of the court. Returning pretty well, returning aggressively,” Isner said. “I certainly put it all together today. It was the best match I have played all year.”
Cilic had to save three break points in the opening game, which lasted nearly seven minutes. But Isner came through on his next opportunity. With Cilic serving at 4-4, 15/40, Cilic netted a forehand volley and Isner led 5-4. A service winner and three aces sealed the set for the American, who won eight of the set's last nine points.
The second set followed a similar story. Serving at 3-4, Cilic netted a forehand off a deep Isner return to give Isner another break. The North Carolina native would break once more for the win.
The victory also assures that Isner will finish the year as the No. 1 American for the fifth consecutive year and in the Top 20 for the seventh consecutive season. The 31 year old also will end the season as the ATP World Tour aces leader. Before the match, Isner, who had 1,123, needed only nine aces to pass Ivo Karlovic, 1,131 aces. (http://www.atpworldtour.com/en/news/isner-cilic-paris-2016-sf)