For 2018 champion John Isner, the best part of the Miami Open presented by Itau experience has levelled up as the ATP Masters 1000 event returned to its home at Hard Rock Stadium.
A diehard fan of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, the American will be hitting the court at the home of the Miami Dolphins – where the players have the entire football field to themselves during the 2021 edition.
“It’s pretty cool to go out there and throw the football around and run some routes and just pretend like you’re playing in the NFL,” Isner laughed in his pre-tournament press conference. “I’m usually the quarterback, because I’m slow. [I play with] Sam Querrey, Stevie Johnson, mostly the American guys.”
Isner was the last champion to be crowned in Key Biscayne, marking an end to the tournament’s 32-year run at Crandon Park. He reached the final again a year later at the Hard Rock Stadium, where he fell to Roger Federer in a centre court built within the cavernous venue.
This year, due to limited fan attendance as a result of health and safety protocols, the Grandstand will be the main court while the football field and areas inside Hard Rock Stadium have been set aside for the players to make full use.
“To be on the field to warm up was incredible,” Isner said. “And it’s even more so this year, because as we all know the big centre court is not built into the stadium right now. So the whole football field is ours.
“We have lots of room and lots of fun things to do. The players are all happy to be here, and it’s just good to be back in Miami, one of the mainstays of the ATP and WTA Tours. We all missed it last year.”
No. 16 seed Isner will kick off his Miami campaign against either Vasek Pospisil or qualifier Mackenzie McDonald in the second round. He will be searching for positive momentum at his third tournament of the year.
The American won his opening matches at the Delray Beach Open by Vitacost.com – one hour’s drive north of Miami – and at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC in Acapulco. But Isner bowed out in both of his next matches, earning a 2-2 record on the year. Isner arrived in Miami looking to win back-to-back matches for the first time since August 2020 at Western & Southern Open in New York.
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“I actually feel alright. I was able to play Acapulco last week and play a couple matches. One was good and one not so good,” Isner said of his preparation. “To be able to get a couple matches before this tournament under my belt was pretty crucial, because i haven’t played that much in the past year.
“Hopefully I can get this tournament started and try to create some momentum for myself and see what I can do. Physically I’m healthy, mentally I feel pretty fresh. I’ll just need to try to get off to a good start and see what I can do from there.”