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Almagro Overcomes Monfils In Houston; Haas Falls

Houston, U.S.A.

Williams © Aaron M. Sprecher/ROCCRhyne Williams ousted 2007 champion Ivo Karlovic to reach the quarter-finals.

Top seed Nicolas Almagro rallied past Frenchman Gael Monfils 2-6, 6-0, 6-3 in second-round action Thursday at the US Men's Clay Court Championship. Almagro won 12 of 13 return points in the second set, and secured the decisive break in the eighth game of the third. 

The Spaniard, a winner of 12 clay-court titles, is making his Houston debut this week.

Returning finalist and fifth seed John Isner battled past 20-year-old American wild card Jack Sock 7-5, 6-7(3), 7-6(3). The two hour, 29-minute match featured just one break of serve.

“I’m sort of a streaky player. I play very well for a month-and-a-half stretch, and there will be some stretches where I don’t play so well and I get down in my confidence a little,” said Isner. “Matches like my first one and this one today are ones that go a long way for me.”

Isner improves to a 9-8 season record and will look to reach his third semi-final of 2013 (Delray Beach, San Jose) when he faces Ricardas Berankis. The 73rd-ranked Lithuanian ousted 2004 titlist and No. 2 seed Tommy Haas 6-3, 6-3.

“I think I had the advantage because for me it was the second match,” said Berankis. “For the first clay-court matches it’s a big advantage. I used it well to get my rhythm.”

Haas, 35, was coming off a semi-final effort at the Sony Open Tennis (l. to Ferrer) and lost his opening match for just the second time this season.

“It started off pretty weird and it didn’t really give me that much confidence for the rest of the match,” he said. “I felt if I could’ve held serve in the first game then things would’ve been a little different.”

Third seed and defending champion Juan Monaco made his way safely through his opener, finishing strong to beat American Tim Smyczek 7-6(5), 6-1 in one hour and 24 minutes. Monaco helped lead Argentina past France in the Davis Cup quarter-finals over the weekend. 

“We practised very hard and finally the hard work paid [off],” said Monaco. “I played very well today because maybe the Davis Cup brought me some confidence.”

American Rhyne Williams reached his first ATP World Tour quarter-final by prevailing against 2007 champion Ivo Karlovic 6-4, 6-7(5), 7-6(3). 

“It’s huge. I’ve been working really hard and it’s starting to pay off,” said Williams. “I struggled a bit in the last two hard-court outdoor tournaments, but I got on the clay and got a couple good weeks of training in Boca with the USTA. I feel strong and confident and hopefully I can just keep going.”

The wild card withstood 28 aces from the 6’10” Karlovic, who stepped in to replace fourth seed Sam Querrey in the draw. Querrey, the 2010 runner-up, withdrew due to a right pectoral muscle strain. 

Also Thursday, Robby Ginepri became the third American to advance to the quarter-finals with a 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 victory over Argentine Martin Alund. Meanwhile, sixth seed Fernando Verdasco dropped serve three times in a 6-3, 6-2 loss to fellow Spaniard Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo

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