Nitto ATP Finals Preview & Prediction: John Isner vs Marin Cilic

Big-serving American John Isner will play big-hitting Croatian Marin Cilic in their second match at round robin stage in the Nitto ATP Finals.

Isner’s debut at the season-ending finale ended in defeat when he was outclassed by World No.1 Novak Djokovic in straight sets. Cilic, like Isner, also opened up his campaign with another defeat to Germany’s Alexander Zverev. The Croat’s record at this event now reads: played 10, won 1, lost 9. A tenth loss for Cilic will effectively cut short his stay in London.

John Isner, whose participation at this year’s event was due to injuries suffered by Nadal and Del Portro, is the oldest debutant since 1972. This has been his most successful year on tour. He won his first Masters 1000 title in Miami, and reached his maiden Grand Slam semifinal when he lost in that epic marathon against Kevin Anderson at Wimbledon. His opening match at the Nitto ATP Finals against Djokovic showed his weakest part of his game. Isner’s return is not the best and he often overcomes it it with his booming first and second serves. But even when serving at 140mph he still found an opponent that returned with regularity. Isner won just four points on the Djokovic serve in the first set, and that is something he will have to massively improve against Cilic, who is a very good server.

Marin Cilic’s record at O2 does not make for pretty good reading, and he is under immense pressure to record a win. I fancied his chances against Zverev, and he served for the opening set at one point, and even lead by a break in the second set, but ending up losing in two tie breaks. I think that defeat will be hard to swallow, but he has to pick himself up again. There is no room for sentimentality and Cilic knows he needs to get a “W” on the board.
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Prediction: Cilic has a winning record against Isner, notching up seven victories in their ten matches. However, the American won their most recent match in Miami this year. For me, Cilic is the favorite here because he has a better return game than Isner. It is very likely that this match will include (at least) a tiebreak because both serve incredibly big and there will be very few break point chances.

Pick: Cilic in 3

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