Isner Value at the ATP Tour Finals5 min read
Novak Djokovic v Alex Zverev
Djokovic was in red-hot form against John Isner in his opening match of the group, adding to a sensational second half of the season in which he’s won Wimbledon, the US Open and Masters titles in Cincinnati and Shanghai.
He underlined his status as one the sport’s greatest-ever returners on Monday and if he brings that level to this match, I can only see one winner.
Zverev was also victorious in the first round of matches but things might have been different had Marin Cilic shown a bit more backbone at key moments – the Croatian was a break of serve ahead in each set but lost 7-6 7-6. Djokovic is unlikely to be so profligate.
Cilic created five break points in that contest, winning two, so I can see Djokovic getting stuck into the Zverev serve, just as he did in Shanghai last month where he posted a 6-2 6-1 win, breaking serve four times.
Zverev didn’t create a break point that day; neither did Isner the other night. Djokovic’s serve is often underrated and much less likely to be threatened.
In terms of a bet, the way to go looks to be under 21.5 games in the match at 20/21.
The return will clearly be key but it’s in fine working order and Djokovic has dismantled plenty of his opponents on this court in recent years.
He took Zverev apart in Shanghai and can won’t need to be anywhere near as brutal to land this bet.
Under 21.5 games – 20/21
Marin Cilic v John Isner
I feel Isner is overpriced here at 9/5.
Admittedly he got his main weapon, his serve, torn apart by Djokovic on Monday night, but he didn’t play badly with Djokovic’s superb returning getting plenty of credit.
Cilic won’t be as effective on that front and instead has his own issues to deal with.
First of all, his awful record at The O2 must be playing on his mind. Monday’s loss to Zverev was his ninth in 10 matches on this court, his only win coming in a dead rubber.
The way it came about is also a concern with Cilic going a break up in both sets before losing them on tie-breaks. In the opener, he served for the set at 5-4.
Call it choking or something else, but there’s no doubt Cilic gets tight at key moments and there’s a wider pattern in play here with the Croatian having blown match points before losing to much weaker opponents than this in recent weeks.
Cilic leads 7-3 on the head-to-head but a closer look shows he’s lost three of the last four. Those matches include their only previous indoor hardcourt meeting (Paris 2016) and their only 2018 encounter (Miami).
While Cilic’s weakness was clearly on show in his match, Isner actually managed to catch the eye with some of his play from the back of the court. He created plenty of power and some great angles with that shot and if he can keep that up against a player whose movement is not as good, then he’ll be in business.
Isner missed a few volleys and sometimes he came to the net at the wrong time but at least some of that decision-making can be put down to the relentless pressure he was put under.
Admittedly he doesn’t boast the best stats on the head-to-head here – even in those most recent four matches, Cilic has held and broken serve more often, but, for me, he’s still too big here at 9/5 and is worth chancing.
Isner to win