Bernabe Zapata Miralles outlasts John Isner in third-round French Open clash

Bernabe Zapata Miralles in action ahead of the ATP Barcelona Open.
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Bernabe Zapata Miralles is having the run of his life in Paris, reaching the first fourth round of a slam in his career. The Spaniard defeated 23rd seed John Isner 6-4 3-6 6-4 6-7(5) 6-3 to make the second week and become one of the final 16 players in the men’s draw.

Zapata Miralles’ Run So Far

The journey for the World No. 131 at this French Open began in qualifying. Zapata Miralles enjoyed a good draw in the semi-retired Dudi Sela to start but began to really impress when he allowed Gastao Elias only two games in the second round. The Spaniard was challenged in the final qualifying round, going a set down to young Italian Luca Nardi before coming back to win 3-6 6-4 6-1.

The draw was kind to Zapata Miralles in the first round of the main draw as well, pitting him against American wildcard Michael Mmoh. Mmoh did play the Spaniard close in sets one and three, having a couple of set points in each, but ultimately did not come close to winning the match and Zapata Miralles moved on after a 7-6(7) 6-3 7-5 win.

Next, the 25-year-old faced the 13th seed Taylor Fritz. The American had struggled through a five-set battle against qualifier Santiago Fa Rodriguez Taverna and despite winning the first set against Zapata Miralles, Fritz succumbed to the Spaniard pretty easily in for sets.

The Isner Match

Zapata Miralles came into his first third-round match at a slam on a five-match winning streak, his last two wins coming against Americans. Up against him was an American stalwart, 23rd seed John Isner. The 37-year-old was looking for his first second-week appearance since 2018.

The first set went the way of the Spaniard in a mostly straightforward fashion. Zapata Miralles saved a break point at 1-2 before breaking Isner the very next game. Both players held on to their serves for the rest of the set, with the underdog taking the first 6-4.

Isner responded right away in the second, taking a 3-0, 40-0 lead. Zapata Miralles saved those three break points to prevent the double break but one turned out to be enough for the American. Not threatened at all on his serve, Isner took the second set 6-3.

The Spaniard had two break points in Isner’s first service game of the third set but the American saved them and we would see no more until 5-4. Isner was serving to stay in the set but went down 0-40, saved two set points but Zapata Miralles took his third chance and regained a lead.

The fourth set was incredible. Avid Challenger and slam qualifying watchers know that Zapata Miralles can bring the drama to a match and never stops talking. All of that behavior came out in the fourth set. The Spaniard jumped away to a 5-2 lead and the match looked all but over. Isner fought back from 15-40 on his serve and saved three match points to make Zapata Miralles serve it out. The 25-year-old gave himself two more match points with a 40-15 lead but got tight and lost the next four points to surrender the advantage with Isner emitting a giant roar and the crowd going wild for him. The set culminated in a tiebreak, where Isner took a 3-0 lead to start. Zapata Miralles did bring it back to 4-4 but the American’s tiebreak experience won out in the end, taking it 7-5.

To his credit, Zapata Miralles went into the fifth set active and with energy, breaking Isner in the first game to put himself on top. It was clear the length of the match was taking a toll, so Zapata Miralles became more aggressive with some very effective returns and more daring passing shots when Isner came forward. Zapata Miralles finished the match with a second break on Isner’s serve in the fifth set, hitting a backhand return winner down the line before collapsing on the ground.

This amazing run is not only the greatest achievement of Zapata Miralles’ career so far, but it also means he will break the Top 100 for the first time. The Spaniard will rise 36 spots from No. 131 to No. 95, which should guarantee him direct entry into Wimbledon and US Open. Zapata Miralles will play third seed Alexander Zverev in the Round of 16 on Sunday.

Main Photo from Getty Images