Argentine fourth seed Juan Monaco outlasted US second seed John Isner for a 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 triumph on Sunday in the final of the ATP US Men’s Clay Court Championship.
Monaco, ranked 16th in the world, captured his fifth career ATP title and his second of the year after a February crown at Vina del Mar, Chile. Before that, he had not won an ATP title since 2007.
“This is a great moment in my career,” Monaco said. “This tournament is going to bring me a lot of confidence.”
Monaco, who improved to 5-8 in ATP finals, had reached the semi-finals last month in Miami, losing to the eventual winner, world No. 1 Novak Djokovic.
Isner saved 12 of 15 break points that he faced, but lost the only one he saw in the third set to surrender a break in the penultimate game of the match. Monaco held once more to claim the crown after 2 hours, 27 minutes.
“I came out of the gates slow,” Isner said. “I wasn’t quite there. It took a while to get warmed up and engaged in the match. I got better as the match went on. After the first set, the quality from both of us picked up a lot. I had some things go right in the second set, but I had some things go against me in the third set. He was pressuring me pretty well all day. All in all, it was a good effort and [it] was the best match I played all week.”
Monaco had lost both prior matches against Isner, including a third-round affair last month in Indian Wells, California.
“We played a great final,” Monaco said. “First set, I played really well. Then he came back in the second. In the final set, it was a battle. We fought until the last point. I served pretty well in the last game, so I’m happy.”
Despite the defeat, Isner became the top-ranked US player in the world yesterday when he passed countryman Mardy Fish, moving up one spot to ninth in the ATP rankings.
“I’m making good strides this year. I just have to keep on working,” Isner said. “I know there’s room to improve in my game. I still need to get into better shape. I want to play 70 matches a year. To do that, I would have to have a pretty darn good year.”
Isner, who sparked a US semi-final Davis Cup triumph on French clay last week to book a semi-final date with Spain in September, missed a chance for his fourth career ATP title and his first on clay.
Isner, a runner-up to Roger Federer last month in Indian Wells, lost to fellow American Sam Querrey in the 2010 Belgrade final in his only prior clay final.
GRAND PRIX HASSAN II
AP, CASABLANCA, MOROCCO
Pablo Andujar retained his Grand Prix Hassan II title by defeating Albert Ramos 6-1, 7-6 (7/5) in a rain-delayed all-Spanish final on Sunday.
The third-seeded Andujar clinched his second career title against seventh seed Ramos, who was playing in his first final.
“I’m very happy, as this is very special to me,” Andujar said. “I didn’t think that I could win here twice in a row.”
The players went off early in the second set after a downpour, but there was little reprieve for Ramos when they resumed.
Andujar won 47 percent of his return points and converted all of his four break-point chances. He has yet to drop a set in his three career wins against his fellow countryman, beating him twice on clay and once on hard courts.
“Albert was a bit nervous at the beginning and I played very well during the first set,” Andujar said. “The second set could have gone either way. It wasn’t easy to remain calm in the end.”