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Isner To Become American No. 1; Faces Monaco In Houston Final

Houston, U.S.A.

Monaco© Aaron M. SprecherJuan Monaco reached his second final of the season Saturday.

Second seed John Isner battled past No. 3 seed Feliciano Lopez 6-7(5), 7-6(4), 6-3 in the semi-finals of the US Men’s Clay Court Championship in Houston Saturday. With the win, Isner will overtake Mardy Fish as the top-ranked American when the updated South African Airways ATP Rankings are published.

“Even coming out of college it’s something I never could have imagined,” said Isner. “But 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. And now I have my highest ranking ever as well, No. 9. That was my next goal, after I got to 10. Now my newest goal is to get to eight, then seven, and then six.”

Isner denied the Spaniard eight break point opportunities, and converted the lone break of serve in the sixth game of the third set to advance in two hours and 37 minutes, improving to 2-1 versus Lopez.

“He serves so well and on top of that, he was hitting his forehand and slice well. He was the one making me feel uncomfortable,” said Isner. “I certainly wasn’t feeling my best at times out there, but I’m fortunate to be able to get through matches because of my serve. I’m very lucky to have that on my side. It wasn’t pretty, but I found a way to eventually get it done and I’m proud of that.”

The World No. 10 is aiming to win his fourth title and first on clay. Isner is through to his second clay-court court final, having finished runner-up in Belgrade two years ago (l. to Querrey).

In the final, Isner will take on Argentine Juan Monaco. The 26-year-old American holds a 2-0 record against Monaco, winning their third-round encounter at the BNP Paribas Open en route to reaching his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 final in Indian Wells (l. to Federer) last month.

“The surface in Indian Wells probably suited me better than him, but maybe this surface here suits him better,” Isner said. “It’s going to be a tough match. His best attribute is the way he competes… He certainly has a lot of confidence, but so do I. I’ll have my hands full in the final.”

The fourth-seeded Monaco advanced to his second title match of the season, overcoming American qualifier Michael Russell 5-7, 6-1, 6-4. The World No. 16 capitalised on six of his 11 break point opportunities, including the final game of the match to secure the semi-final win in two hours and 25 minutes.

“It wasn't easy to play. It was very windy and he played great tennis,” Monaco said. “It was difficult to get a rhythm. They were tough conditions, but I'm happy to win the match and be in the final.”

Monaco is looking to add to his triumph at the VTR Open in Vina Del Mar (d. Berlocq) and will contest his 13th final (4-8 record).

Russell was appearing in his first tour-level semi-final, having knocked out ninth-ranked Mardy Fish in the second round and 19-year-old Ryan Harrison in the quarter-finals.

“I'm disappointed. I played a really good first set,” said Russell. “I was a little tired in the second set and he kind of upped his game. In the third set, I played good and bad. He came up with some good shots. Unfortunately the last game was tough.

“But I feel like I'm playing well again for the first time in a year and a half... I did my best two results in one tournament, [reaching] the semi-finals and beating a Top 10 guy, in Houston. It doesn't get much better than that. Hopefully I'll stay healthy and keep it rolling from here.”

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