American John Isner continued to prove his status as a serious contender on the men’s tour, prevailing against defending champion Novak Djokovic 7-6(7), 3-6, 7-6(5) on Saturday to reach his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 final.
The win – Isner’s first over a World No. 1 – ensured that he would break into the Top 10 for the first time. Should he capture the title Sunday, he would climb an extra two spots to No. 8 in the South African Airways ATP Rankings, passing Mardy Fish to become the top American.
Djokovic appeared to be in control early on, breaking Isner at love in the third game, but conceded his advantage as he served for the set at 5-4. Isner put the Serbian on the defensive in the tie-break, and claimed the set after one hour after Djokovic returned a second serve into the net on the American’s third set point.
After winning 62 per cent of his service games in the opening set, the World No. 1 stepped up his level in the second game, dropping just one point on serve. Isner came back from 0/40 in the eighth game, but could not save a fourth break point.
Isner fired an ace on Djokovic’s next break point opportunity in the seventh game of the third set, and earned his first match point five games later when Djokovic’s serve sailed long. Djokovic held and sent the match to a tie-break, where the American set up three more match points at 6-3. Djokovic saved two, before Isner fired his 20th ace to clinch the win after two hours and 45 minutes.
The 26-year-old North Carolina has now won three of his last four matches against Top 10 players, including an upset of World No. 3 Roger Federer in the United States’ Davis Cup tie against Switzerland last month in Fribourg.
Isner will play for the doubles title later Saturday, when he and Sam Querrey face off against Spaniards Rafael Nadal and Marc Lopez.
The 24-year-old Djokovic had won 11 straight matches in the Coachella Valley coming into Saturday’s semi-finals, and was looking to reach his fourth Indian Wells final. He finished runner-up to Nadal in 2007, claimed the title in 2008 (d. Fish) and in ’11 (d. Nadal).