John Isner has only played six matches in 2021, but he seems to be finding his peak form at the Miami Open. The American is 26-11 in his career at the tournament, and 13-1 since 2018, where he stormed to his first and only ATP Masters 1000 title.
Isner will take on the rock-solid Roberto Bautista Agut for a spot in his third consecutive Miami Open quarterfinal, and despite his success in the Sunshine State, is listed as a +170 underdog according to DraftKings Sportsbook. From a betting perspective, this is tremendous value, so jump on it before the line shifts in Isner’s favor, because it almost certainly will.
According to the Har-Tru Instagram account, which features condition reports from competitors, the courts in Miami are playing on the slower side, with a lively Dunlop ball gripping the gritty surface and bouncing very high. This is crucial for a few reasons.
First of all, it’d be impossible for conditions to be too high-bouncing for the 6’9” Isner, but more importantly, the Spaniard’s Eastern forehand grip is much more suited to a low-bouncing court. With a better career win percentage on grass than clay, it’s clear that Bautista Agut is not your typical Spanish player.
The Eastern forehand grip was not designed to handle a serve that bounces as high as Isner’s, because it's nearly impossible to come over the top of the ball when it's above your shoulders.
That said, if Isner hits his kick serve like this, nobody's grip really matters. The 6’4" Felix Auger-Aliassime is undeniably one of the most athletic players on tour, but was rendered helpless from this second serve. The Canadian lost to Isner in two tiebreaks on Sunday.
Isner owns a 3-1 head-to-head advantage over Bautista Agut, and beat him 7-6 (1), 7-6 (5), in the 2019 quarterfinals. Bautista Agut has a massive advantage from the ground, but in his third-round victory over Auger-Aliassime, Isner only hit 148 total groundstrokes. We’re likely to see some tiebreaks, which gives yet another advantage to Isner, who owns a 445-287 tiebreak record compared to Bautista Agut’s career mark of 103-97.
It’s unwise to count out the Spaniard, but at +170, Isner appears to be in a fantastic position to pull off the upset.
The Pick: John Isner