KEY BISCAYNE (Florida) • It has taken John Isner years of playing second fiddle, having finished runner-up in 2012, 2013 and 2016, and the 32-year-old finally put an end to his ATP Masters 1000 final agony on Sunday.
The 14th seed won the Miami Open for the first time, beating Germany's Alexander Zverev 6-7 (4-7), 6-4, 6-4 in 2hr 29min.
The victory capped a superb tournament for big-serving Isner, who endured a difficult start to this year which included an early-round exit at Indian Wells before Miami.
"I couldn't have scripted this. I came into this tournament, I won one ATP (World Tour) match all year and was playing very poorly," he said.
"I won my first match in three sets and that's how tennis goes - you start to gain a little confidence and, the next thing you know, things start to roll your way."
Isner is the first American since compatriot Andy Roddick in 2010 to lift the Miami title and he will also claim a career-high world No. 9 ranking after the victory, which was also the 13th title of his career.
"It's up to me now to keep pushing forward," he added.
STEPPING ON THE GAS
It's up to me now to keep pushing forward. To get over the hump in tournaments like this is a big thing mentally for me.
JOHN ISNER, who will claim a career-high world No. 9 ranking, on how the Miami Open victory provides a boost going forward.
"To get over the hump in tournaments like this is a big thing mentally for me. We cleared that hurdle this week. I went into every match super fresh and loose. I will be a force if I can continue to play freely."
Both Zverev and Isner were faultless in their service games and the first set predictably went the distance before fourth seed Zverev prevailed when Isner sprayed a backhand wide.
The break, however, finally came for Isner at 4-4 in the second set and when Zverev, who missed the chance to return to world No. 3 with this defeat, failed to hold at 5-4 in the third, the American sealed the best win of his career with an ace.
The 20-year-old Zverev, however, proved his billing as one of stars of the future despite losing his third Masters final.
He now heads to Spain where Germany play in the quarter-finals of the Davis Cup. Zverev was magnanimous in defeat and congratulated his opponent for capitalising on the breaks in the match.
"I missed more shots today than I did the whole tournament. I played badly from the baseline, but it's not easy against John," he said.
"He always makes it difficult. I kind of lost the match myself, but I have known him since I was 14 so although I am never happy to lose.
"I am happy for him that he's won his first Masters."