Juan Monaco and John Isner both battled through challenging three-set semifinals to reach the final of the 2012 US Men’s Clay Court Championship.
Monaco needed 2:25 to earn a come from behind 5-7 6-1 6-4 win over Houston resident Michael Russell in the first semifinal, while Isner defeated Feliciano Lopez 6-7(5) 7-6(4) 6-3 in 2:36.
In the first two sets between Lopez and Isner, neither player could manage a break of serve. While Isner saved three break points in each of the first two sets, Lopez faced only one.
In the sixth game of the final set, a break was finally earned, as Isner converted his fourth chance of the match. Isner, the former Georiga Bulldog, then held on for the win.
“I was not the better player today, just as I wasn’t yesterday. But I found a way,” said Isner. “It definitely wasn’t pretty but I found a way to eventually get it done, and I’m proud of that. It’s fortunate for me that I can get through matches when I’m not feeling my best or playing my best because of my serve.”
The win slides Isner past Mardy Fish in the ATP World Tour rankings, making him the new No. 1 ranked player from the United States.
“Even coming out of college it’s something I never could have imagined,” Isner said. “As I started to improve and play better a little bit, I knew that this could be something that was attainable for me. I’m very thrilled.”
In the first semifinal, Russell converted both his break chances in the opening set while saving one of two faced break points to claim the opening stanza.
Monaco needed just 36 minutes to level the match, winning the first two games of the second set then closing it out by winning four in a row.
Russell struck first in the final set, quickly taking a 2-0 lead, but Monaco quickly erased the deficit by reeling off three straight games. Monaco then sealed the match with a break of Russell’s serve.
“It wasn’t easy to play,” said Monaco. “It was very windy, he played great tennis and it was difficult to get rhythm and play good strokes. I'm happy to have won the match and be in the final.”
For the 33-year-old Russell, who had to qualify into the main draw, the loss ends a hometown run that saw him reach his first career ATP World Tour semifinal.
“I got my best two results in the same week, semifinals and beating a top ten player. And in Houston,” Russell said. “It doesn't get much better than that.”