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Saturday Briefing - Casablanca, Houston

HOUSTON SATURDAY PREVIEW –  RUSSELL-MONACO, LOPEZ-ISNER SQUARE OFF IN SEMI-FINALS
• The semi-finals at the US Men’s Clay Court Championships on Saturday feature three of the top four seeds and a local qualifier who is making his ATP World Tour semi-final debut.  It is the first time since 2003 three of the top four seeds are through to the semi-finals in Houston. That year No. 2 Andre Agassi, No. 3 Andy Roddick and No. 4 Pete Sampras all advanced to the semis.

• Two Americans have reached the semi-finals, marking the third time in five years that has happened since the tournament moved to River Oaks in 2008.

• In the first match of the day on Center Court, qualifier and Houston resident Michael Russell takes on No. 4 seed and wild card entry Juan Monaco of Argentina. Monaco won the previous meeting 63 61 in Poertschach, Austria in May 2007. Monaco is making his first semi-final appearance in Houston at River Oaks since the tournament came on the ATP World Tour in 2008. The 28-year-old Argentine comes in with a 14-5 match record on the season, highlighted by his fourth career ATP World Tour title title in Vina del Mar and semi-finals at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event in Miami where he defeated Andy Roddick and No. 8 Mardy Fish before losing to eventual champion and World No. 1 Novak Djokovic.  Russell is appearing in his first career ATP World Tour semi-final and last year Ryan Sweeting  accomplished the same feat, going on to earn his first title. At 33, Russell extends the streak to three years in a row of a player 30 or older reaching the semi-finals here (Ivo Karlovic, 2011 and Juan Ignacio Chela, 2010). Chela is the last over-30 player here to reach the final, winning the title.  Russell's ranking of No. 136 means a player ranked 100 or higher has reached the Houston semi-finals for the 11th year in a row.

• In the second semi-final, No. 3 seed and wild card Feliciano Lopez of Spain and No. 2 John Isner square off for the third time (tied 1-1), the first on clay. Lopez, who is making his Houston debut, is appearing in his first semi-final of the season.  He has a 7-7 match record on the season. Lopez is trying to reach his eighth career ATP World Tour final (2-5), the second on U.S. soil (’05 New Haven, l. to Blake). The Madrid native is 0-2 in clay court finals. Isner, who is playing in his first career semi-final on clay, enters with a 19-6 match record on the year. The 26-year-old Tampa resident will become the top American on the ATP World Tour with a semi-final win. He came into Houston ranked No. 10, 15 points behind countryman Mardy Fish. Isner is 6-0 on clay this season with two clay wins in the Davis Cup first round in Switzerland, two in the quarter-finals last weekend against France in Monte-Carlo and two this week. In those six matches, Isner has only been broken twice.

• Semi-finalists Breakdown – In Draw Order
2012   Career ATP World Tour Finals (2012)
ATP Rank W-L (on clay)             W-L 
136  Russell 5-4 (3-0)              0-0 (0-0)
16    Monaco 14-5 (9-2)     4-8 (1-0)

15   Lopez 7-7 (2-0)    2-5 (0-0)          
10   Isner 19-6 (6-0)    3-6 (0-1)

SATURDAY SEMI-FINALS FEX ATP HEAD 2 HEADS –   In Order of Play

Center Court

(Q) Michael Russell (USA) vs (4-WC) Juan Monaco (ARG) Monaco Leads 1-0
07 Poertschach (Austria) Clay R16 Juan Monaco 6-3 6-1

Russell FastFacts:
2012 Highlights:
YTD W-L: 5-4 (3-0 on clay)
YTD Titles: 0
Career Titles: 0
Date of Birth: May 1, 1978
South African Airways ATP Ranking: 136

• Russell, 33 (turns 34 on May 1), is the oldest player in the draw and he’s appearing in his first career ATP World Tour semi-final  here after posting wins over Spaniard Daniel Gimeno-Traver 26 75 61, who served for the match at 5-4 in the second set (but rallied to win 10 of last 11 games), World No. 9/top seed Mardy Fish 63 61 for first career Top 10 win (1-12) and teenager Ryan Harrison 61 57 63
• The Houston resident comes in with a 5-4 match record on the season and his previous best result on the ATP World Tour were three quarter-finals, the last in February 2011 in Memphis
• Has held serve 30 of 36 games this week (83%) and has won 14 of 35 return games (40%), best among semi-finalists
• Prior to this week his best result came in the opening week of the season in New Caledonia Challenger  where he reached the quarter-finals
• By reaching the semi-finals, he will move to around No. 114 and if he reaches the final, he will climb to around No. 100 (which would also earn him a direct acceptance entry into the next Grand Slam tournament at Roland Garros)…The entry cutoff deadline is on Monday

Monaco FastFacts
2012 Highlights:
W: Vina del Mar (d Berlocq); SF: ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Miami (l Djokovic)
YTD W-L: 14-5 (9-2 on clay)
YTD Titles: 1/Career Titles: 4
Date of Birth: March 29, 1984
South African Airways ATP Ranking: 16

• Monaco, 28, the No. 2 Argentine (behind No. 11 del Potro), is appearing in his third semi-final of the season…He captured his fourth career ATP World Tour title in Vina del Mar (d. countryman Berlocq) on Feb. 5…It was his first ATP title since Kitzbuehel in summer of 2007…In his last tournament at ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Miami, he reached the semi-finals with wins over Roddick and Fish (l. to eventual champion Djokovic)
• Has a 4-8 career record in ATP World Tour finals, all but one on clay (’11 Valencia-H) and trying to reach his first final on U.S. soil
• The Tandil native is playing in Houston for the first time in five years when he reached the quarters here (l. to Blake in third set TB)…Has held serve 19 of 21 games (90%), saving six of eight break pts.
• Has a 14-5 match record on the season (9-2 on clay)…He is fourth on the ATP World Tour this season in clay court wins (9-2), behind Nicolas Almagro (14), David Ferrer and Carlos Berlocq (12 each)
• Played in first round Davis Cup tie vs. Germany and defeated Philipp Petzschner in straight sets in opening rubber  and last Sunday defeated Croatia’s Antonio Veic 61 61 in dead rubber as Argentina advanced to the semi-finals in September (vs. Czech Republic)

(4-WC) Feliciano Lopez (ESP) vs (2) John Isner (USA) Tied 1-1
11 ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Paris  Hard R16 John Isner 6-4 6-2
12 Australian Open (Australia) Hard R32 Feliciano Lopez 6-3 6-7(3)  6-4 6-7  6-1

Lopez FastFacts:
2012 Highlights:
YTD W-L: 7-7 (2-0 on clay)
YTD Titles: 0/Career Titles: 2
Date of Birth: September 20, 1981
South African Airways ATP Ranking: 15

• Lopez, 30, is appearing in his first ATP World Tour semi-final of the season in his clay court tournament debut…In first Houston showing, opened on Wednesday with 64 76(4) win over Italian Paolo Lorenzi and followed with 64 2-2 ret. (lower leg) victory over No. 6 Carlos Berlocq…Has held serve 15 of 18 games (83%), saving six of nine break points
• The Madrid native has a 7-7 match record on the season and his best result was the fourth round at the Australian Open where he defeated Leonardo Mayer, Flavio Cipolla and No. 17 John Isner (in five sets) before losing to countryman No. 2 Rafael Nadal in straight sets…Then went 2-5 in next five events
• Has not played on Spain’s Davis Cup team in first two ties but last year was member of winning squad (d. Fish 8-6 in fifth set in QF tie in Austin) and also played doubles in 1R, SF and F ties
• Has a 2-5 career mark in ATP World Tour finals (0-2 on clay) and last U.S. final came in ’05 New Haven
• Looking for first Top 10 win of season (0-2) and 23-62 in career, the last on clay in ’07 Stuttgart (d. No. 10 Berdych)…Since then, has lost 10 in a row on clay vs. Top 10 
• One of ATP World Tour-best five Spaniards in Top 20

Isner FastFacts:
2012 Highlights:
F: ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Indian Wells (l Federer); SF: Delray Beach (l Anderson); QF: Memphis (l Melzer)
YTD W-L: 19-6 (6-0 on clay)
YTD Titles: 0/Career Titles: 3
Date of Birth: April 26, 1985
South African Airways ATP Ranking: 10

• Isner , 26, is appearing in his first semi-final at River Oaks in his fifth straight appearance (5-4 mark)…Reached quarters in 2009 (l. to Odesnik) and last year (l. to Karlovic), both in third set tie-breaks…Also lost in third set TB to Malisse two years ago…Has a 6-7 career TB record here
• On Thursday opened with 67 64 62 win over qualifier Horacio Zeballos, firing 16 aces, and followed with 76(1) 76(4) victory over defending champ Ryan Sweeting…Has held all 27 service games, saving seven break points and leads tourney with 27 aces
• Last weekend he lifted the U.S. into the Davis Cup semi-finals (vs. Spain) with wins over Frenchmen No. 13 Gilles Simon and No. 6 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the Monte-Carlo Country Club…In February, beat No. 3 Roger Federer in first round tie in Switzerland
• The No. 2 American (15 pts. behind No. 9 Fish) is 19-6 on the season (6-0 on clay) and last year he didn’t win his 19th match until Atlanta in July…Also went 4-7 on clay last season…Will become the top American next week if he reaches the final
• Last month advanced to his first ATP Masters 1000 final in Indian Wells, defeating World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals before losing to Federer…Afterwards, broke into the Top 10 for the first time on Mar. 19...Has a 3-1 mark vs. Top 10 opponents and last two years was 2-12 combined
• Came in this week No. 2 on the year in aces with 305 (behind Raonic 324) but has passed Canadian and now has 332, No. 6 in service games won (88%) and No. 8 in second serve points won (55%)

POTENTIAL FINAL HEAD-TO-HEADS

Michael Russell (USA) vs Feliciano Lopez (ESP)  Lopez Leads 1-0
02 Delray Beach (U.S.A.) Hard R16 Feliciano Lopez 4-6 6-3 6-4

Michael Russell (USA) vs John Isner (USA)   Isner Leads 3-0
09 Houston (U.S.A.) Clay R32 John Isner 4-6 6-3 6-2
10 ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Miami Hard R64 John Isner 7-6(5) 2-6 7-6(5)
10 Atlanta (USA) Hard QF John Isner 6-1 6-2
Other meeting:
05 Lubbock CH (U.S.A.) Hard R32 John Isner 6-4 7-5
 
Juan Monaco (ARG) vs Feliciano Lopez (ESP)    Tied 2-2
06 Stockholm (Sweden) Hard R32 Feliciano Lopez 2-1 ret
07 ATP Masters 1000 Cincinnati  Hard R64 Juan Monaco 6-4 6-7(5)  6-3
09 ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Madrid Clay R64 Juan Monaco 6-4 7-5
11 Belgrade (Serbia) Clay R32 Feliciano Lopez 6-4 7-5

Juan Monaco (ARG) vs John Isner (USA)   Isner Leads 2-0
10 Auckland (New Zealand) Hard R16 John Isner 5-7 6-4 6-3
12 ATP Masters 1000 Indian Wells  Hard R32 John Isner 7-5 7-5

Note: Should either American, Michael Russell or John Isner, win on Saturday it will mark the fifth straight year an American has reached the final at this tournament. At least one US player has been in the final in 10 of the past 11 years.
- Should both Russell and Isner win it would be the first all-American US Men's Clay Court championship final since 2003 when Andre Agassi beat Andy Roddick. The all-American final on the ATP circuit came in Atlanta last summer when Mardy Fish beat Isner.

DOUBLES FINAL – UNSEEDED TITLE MATCH FEATURES AMERICANS AGAINST FIRST-TIME DUO

• The all-American squad of James Blake and Sam Querrey overcame Ivo Karlovic and Frank Moser 3-6, 6-3, 10-8 to reach the final.  This marks the fourth year in a row that at least one American team has played in the doubles final.

• Coming into Houston, the American tandem had lost all four of their previous matches (three in 2008, one in 2010). They will meet the first-time ATP World Tour duo of Treat Conrad Huey of the Philippine and Dominic Inglot of Great Britain. Huey and Inglot defeated wild cards Bobby Reynolds and Michael Russell 6-3, 3-6, 10-6 in the semi-finals.

• Inglot is into his first ATP World Tour doubles final, while Huey is making his second appearance (’11 Los Angeles). Huey and Inglot defeated No. 2 seeds Knowles and Malisse in the quarter-finals. The two have captured three ATP Challenger team titles in four finals since first teaming together in July 2010.  In January, they were finalists at the Heilbronn Challenger, their only previous pairing this season.

• Blake and Querrey saved five match points in their first round win over Souza and Zeballos and in the quarter-finals they defeated top seeds Bogomolov Jr. and Lipsky.

• Querrey is appearing in the doubles final here for the second straight year. Last season he and Isner lost to the Bryans in a Match Tie-break. Querrey is 3-3 in his career in ATP World Tour finals and his last title came in ATP Masters 1000 Rome last May. Blake, who captured the title here in 2004 (w/Fish), is 5-2 in finals on the ATP World Tour. His last title came in Munich in May 2004.

CASABLANCA SATURDAY PREVIEW - SPANISH SEEDS FACE UNSEEDED CHALLENGERS IN SEMIS
• Two of Spain’s brightest talents will square off against unseeded players Saturday in the semi-finals of the Grand Prix Hassan II, an ATP World Tour 250-level clay court tournament.

• The first semi-final pits No. 7 seed Albert Ramos against Russia’s Igor Andreev. Both players come into this match with a lot of confidence, winning their quarter-final matches in straight sets on Friday, but Ramos has gotten the upper hand on Andreev in the past, winning both of their previous meetings (both within the last year). Andreev may be calmer at this stage of the week though - he is trying to reach his 10th ATP World Tour final, while Ramos is gunning for his first.

• The second semi-final features No. 3 seed Pablo Andujar against Italy’s Flavio Cipolla. Andujar won this tournament on debut last year and has made it through to the semi-finals again this year, the only Top 4 seed to make his projected semi-final spot. Cipolla has had a breakthrough week though, beating No. 2 seed Alexandr Dolgopolov en route to his first ATP World Tour semi, and though this is a first-time ATP World Tour meeting, Cipolla did win their only Challenger meeting.

SATURDAY SEMI-FINALS FED EX ATP HEAD 2 HEADS –  In Order of Play

Court Central

(7) Albert Ramos (ESP) vs Igor Andreev (RUS) Ramos Leads 2-0
11 Kitzbühel (Austria) Clay R32 Albert Ramos 6-0 6-7(2) 6-4
12 Sao Paulo (Brazil) Clay R16 Albert Ramos 7-6(4) 7-6(4)

Ramos FastFacts:
2012 Highlights:
SF: Sao Paulo (l Almagro); QF: Doha (l Tsonga)
YTD W-L: 13-9
YTD Titles: 0
Career Titles: 0
Date of Birth: January 17, 1988
South African Airways ATP Ranking: 52

• Ramos, 24, is making his first appearance at this event (3-0 so far this week - has won all three rounds in straight sets)
• The Spaniard is playing in his second ATP World Tour semi-final of career (first came earlier this year at Sao Paulo - l. to Almagro); is going for first ATP World Tour final of any kind
• Currently at career-high No. 52 (set this week - week of April 9, 2012)

Andreev FastFacts:
2012 Highlights:
QF: Buenos Aires (l Almagro)
YTD W-L: 8-4
YTD Titles: 0
Career Titles: 3
Date of Birth: July 14, 1983
South African Airways ATP Ranking: 100

• Andreev, 28, is making his second appearance at this event (6-1 record); also reached SFs in 2009 (l. to Ferrero)
• The Russian is playing in his first ATP World Tour semi-final since Kuala Lumpur in October 2010 (l. to Youzhny) and trying to reach his 10th ATP World Tour final (3-6 mark)…He is trying to capture his first ATP World Tour title since Moscow in 2005
• He reached a career-high is No. 18 (set November 3, 2008)

(3) Pablo Andujar (ESP) vs Flavio Cipolla (ITA) First ATP Meeting
Other meeting:
07 Trani CH (Italy) Clay F Flavio Cipolla 4-6 6-2 6-4

Andujar FastFacts:
2012 Highlights:
QF: Acapulco (l Ferrer)
YTD W-L: 8-8
YTD Titles: 0
Career Titles: 1
Date of Birth: January 23, 1986
South African Airways  ATP Ranking: 58

• Andujar, 26, is making his second appearance at this event (7-0 record); won title in his debut last year (d. Starace in final)
• The Spaniard is playing in his first ATP World Tour semi-final since Bucharest in last September (reached final, l. to Mayer)…He is trying to reach fifth ATP World Tour final (1-3 career mark)
• He reached a career-high No. 38 on March 19

Cipolla FastFacts:
2012 Highlights:
YTD W-L: 8-8
YTD Titles: 0
Career Titles: 0
Date of Birth: October 20, 1983
South African Airways ATP Ranking: 85

• Cipolla, 28, is making his second appearance at this event (3-1 record); fell 1st Rd. in 2009 (l. to Zverev)
• The Italian is playing in his first career ATP World Tour semi-final
• He reached a career-high No. 75 (set November 28, 2011)
 

POTENTIAL FINAL HEAD-TO-HEADS

Albert Ramos (ESP) vs Pablo Andujar (ESP)   Andujar Leads 2-0
11 Kitzbühel (Austria) Clay R16 Pablo Andujar 6-2 6-1
12 ATP Masters 1000 Indian Wells   Hard R32 Pablo Andujar 7-6(5) 6-4
Other meetings:
05 Spain F31 (Vilafranca) Clay R16 Pablo Andujar 6-2 3-6 6-0
06 Spain F14 (Lleida) Clay R16 Pablo Andujar 6-4 6-4
08 Valencia Q (Spain) Clay -- Pablo Andujar 6-0 6-2
09 Seville CH (Spain) Clay R32 Albert Ramos 6-4 7-6(3)
10 Geneva CH (Switzerland) Clay QF Pablo Andujar 6-2 3-6 7-6(8)

Albert Ramos (ESP) vs Flavio Cipolla (ITA)    First Meeting

Igor Andreev (RUS) vs Pablo Andujar (ESP)    First Meeting

Igor Andreev (RUS) vs Flavio Cipolla (ITA)   First ATP Meeting
Other meetings:
03 Italy F1 (Rome) Clay R32 Igor Andreev 6-2 7-5
03 Italy F3 (Viterbo) Clay QF Igor Andreev 7-5 4-6 6-2
12 Dallas 2 CH (U.S.A.) Hard R16 Igor Andreev 6-2 6-0

DOUBLES FINAL - (4) Bracciali/Fognini (ITA/ITA) vs. Brown/Hanley (GER/AUS)
• No. 4 seeds Daniele Bracciali and Fabio Fognini, have beaten three unseeded teams to reach the final and it is the Italian pair’s first ATP World Tour doubles final together
• Unseeded Dustin Brown and Paul Hanley have taken out two seeded teams en route to the final, No. 1 seeds Frantisek Cermak/Filip Polasek and No. 3 seeds David Marrero/Marcelo Melo; the German-Australian pair is playing its first ATP World Tour doubles final together as well
• ATP World Tour doubles final W-L: Bracciali (5-2), Fognini (1-2), Brown (1-1), Hanley (25-21)

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