Isner riding big serve into BNP final

March, 17, 2012
3/17/12
11:33
PM ET
AP Photo/Darron CummingsJohn Isner is seeking his first career Masters 1000 title. He'll have to beat Roger Federer to get it
John Isner made a name for himself back in 2010 with his marathon match against Nicolas Mahut in the first round of Wimbledon, but what many forget is how much that match drained him. Isner won just five games in his second-round match that year against Thiemo de Bakker.

After Wimbledon, Isner went 14-9 and finished the year ranked 19th. Last year, Isner took home small titles at Winston-Salem and Newport, but only finished the year one spot higher in the rankings.

Isner is starting to win big matches this year, not just long ones. He beat third-ranked Roger Federer in Switzerland at Davis Cup and then knocked out Novak Djokovic Saturday in the semifinals of the BNP Paribas Open to reach his first career Masters 1000 final.

Isner is the first American to beat a reigning No. 1 since James Blake beat Roger Federer in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The University of Georgia alum has played up to his competition in the past. Isner has faced both Federer and Rafael Nadal when they were No. 1 and although he lost both matches, he didn't go down in straight sets. Last year at the French Open, Isner went up two-sets-to-one in his first-round matchup against Nadal before falling in five sets.

Isner's first-serve is a huge threat when he's hitting it accurately. Saturday the 6'9" Isner got his first-serve in at a 74 percent clip and hit 20 aces to frustrate Djokovic. On the year he has 283 aces, second only to Canada's Milos Raonic (307).

Isner's service advantage was evident against Djokovic considering that both sets he won came in tiebreaks. In 13 tiebreaks in 2012, Isner has won all but two.

Isner's upset of Djokovic overshadowed the other semifinal at Indian Wells between Federer and Nadal.

Roger Federer
Federer
Following a rain-delayed start, third-ranked Federer took out his long-time rival in straight sets. The win is Federer's 10th in his career against Nadal in 28 matches. Six of those wins have come on hardcourts.

In Sunday's final, which can be seen on ABC following the women's final at 2 ET, there is plenty at stake for both Federer and Isner. Federer will look to avenge his loss to Isner earlier this year and win his 19th career Masters 1000 title, which would tie Nadal for most all-time. Isner is looking to be the first American to win at Indian Wells since Andre Agassi in 2001.

Win or lose, Isner will make his debut in the Top 10 of the rankings Monday for the first time. A win though, would jump him to eighth in the rankings – ahead of Mardy Fish as the top-ranked American.

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