Former champions John Isner and Jack Sock kicked off their 2018 River Oaks campaigns with back-to-back wins at the Fayez Sarofim & Co. U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship on Thursday night.
Top-seeded Isner ousted Switzerland’s Henri Laaksonen 6-4 6-2 to extend his winning streak to seven matches. The 32-year-old is making his 11th straight appearance in Houston on the heels of his first ATP Masters 1000 title in Miami.
“I look forward to this event every single year,” Isner said. “The people are so nice. Center Court is so quaint and has such great history. The matches are fun, but off the court, everyone is in such a good mood here.”
Isner will next face fellow American and reigning champion Steve Johnson, who took another step toward a successful title defense with a straightforward 6-3 6-4 victory over Frances Tiafoe.
“Today was one of the first days where I really felt good,” Johnson told Tennis Channel after the match. “I felt that I had a rhythm. I had some aces, a lot of serves that were unreturnable. It let me really focus on my return games.”
No. 3 seed Sock began his match against Argentine lefty Horacio Zeballos 0-for-9 on break points before converting in the sixth game to go up 4-3. Sock, who reached a career-high rank of No. 8 in the world last fall, rolled to the finish line, sealing a 6-4 6-4 win.
Sock will meet Taylor Fritz in the quarterfinals. The 20-year-old California native overcame a slow start to defeat No. 7 seed Ryan Harrison 3-6 6-0 6-3. After losing the first set, Fritz rebounded by taking the second in just 19 minutes, collecting 26 of 34 total points. The win is his second in Houston and his third tour-level victory on clay.
In doubles action, top seeds Bob and Mike Bryan defeated Ken and Neal Skupski 4-6 6-3 10-6 to collect their 40thwin here in Houston. Last year’s finalists Frances Tiafoe and Dustin Brown toppled Ivo Karlovic and Daniel Nestor 7-6(4) 6-2 to book their spot in the semifinals.
All four singles quarterfinals and the doubles semifinals are scheduled to be played on Friday. View the order of play.