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2018 ATP World Tour Finals: John Isner vs Marin Cilic, Preview and Prediction

ANALYST
Preview
14 Nov 2018, 12:10 IST

John Isner
John Isner

The 5th seed Marin Cilic will face the 8th seed John Isner in a crucial match in the ATP World Tour Finals.

They are both coming off straight-set losses in their opening encounters, and another loss here would most certainly put paid to any realistic chance of them progressing to the semi-final stage.

Marin Cilic lost to Alexander Zverev in two tie-breaks, and this was his sixth straight loss to the young German. The match was competitive and could have gone either way. But Cilic faltered at the crucial moments in the two tie-breakers.

An unfortunate feature of Cilic’s game in recent times has been the setting in of nerves that jeopardizes his chances in such close matches at the biggest of stages. He did not really have a poor game against Zverev. He had an especially good return game, where he broke his younger counterpart twice and won 29 points on the return game.

Nitto ATP World Tour Finals - Day Two
Nitto ATP World Tour Finals - Day Two

On the other hand, John Isner was simply outplayed by the world’s most dominant player at the moment – Novak Djokovic. Isner’s main weapon, his powerful serve, was neutralized by the best returner of the game, who was out to prove a point after his shocking loss to another big-server Karen Khachanov in the Paris Masters final.

Isner got broken three times – a very rare event. He could win only 44% of his second serve points. However, not much should be read into these figures. It was less to do with any major weakness in Isner’s serve and more to do with the terrific return game of arguably the best returner in the game, ever.

Isner will most certainly not face that kind of consistent pressure on his service game, against Cilic. But he must ensure that his own return game improves. Against Djokovic, he could manage to win only 6 points on the Serbian’s serve, in the entire match. He must improve that figure against Cilic.

Isner has a losing head to head record against Cilic. He has won only three out of ten matches they have played against each other. But what would give him confidence is the fact that he has won three of their last four encounters, including their only match this year at Miami Open.

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This certainly promises to be a close encounter. But the one who shows better temperament and lesser nerves would eventually triumph.

Prediction: John Isner to win in 3 Sets

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