Monaco defeats Isner in Houston final

Associated Press  |  Last updated April 15, 2012

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 24: John Isner of the United States of America plays a forehand in his fourth round match against Andy Murray of Great Britain during day seven of the 2010 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 24, 2010 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
Juan Monaco defeated John Isner 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 in the final match of the U.S. Clay Court Championship on Sunday. Isner would've moved up to No. 8 in the rankings with a victory, but the Argentine broke Isner's serve three times to hand the American his first clay loss of the year. Monaco won on clay for the second time this year and improved to 11-2 on the surface this year overall. He came in ranked 16th and his first victory in America will move up him to No. 13, a career high. Isner won 44 consecutive service games in the tournament before Monaco broke him twice in the first set to take control. Isner had eight aces in the match, but also had five double faults. Monaco's win at Vina del Mar was his first since 2007. He sprained his left ankle in 2008, then hurt his left wrist in 2010 and had surgery that sidelined him three months. Healthy again, Monaco feels like he's close to his 2008 form, just in time for the height of the clay season. He's won four of his five career titles on clay, and he's flying straight to Europe from Houston to compete in Monte Carlo. The players contended with a stiff breeze that blew into their faces when they played at the north end of the court. Monaco coped with the wind better, and he had Isner down 30-40 in the eighth game of the third set. When Isner missed a backhand wide, Monaco bent at the waist and clenched his fist, knowing he would serve for the match. Monaco sprayed a forehand wide on the first match point, but caught Isner coming into the net and passed him with a pinpoint backhand down the line. Monaco dropped to his knees and clenched both fists as Isner trudged off the court with his head down. Isner dropped to 7-1 on clay in 2012, and he acknowledged after his semifinal win over Feliciano Lopez that he was playing on tired legs. He arrived in Houston straight from Monte Carlo, where he won two clay matches to help the U.S. defeat France in Davis Cup play. The victory on Saturday moved Isner up to No. 9 in the rankings, and he became the top American, passing Mardy Fish. He already has wins this year over Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, but dropped to 20-7 this year overall. Isner netted a return in the first set to lose his serve for the first time this week. He hit two more returns into the net in the sixth game to fall behind 5-2, and he missed a return long on set point. Monaco won 12 of 25 return points and 14 of 16 points on his first serve to take the early lead. Isner built a 4-2 lead in the second set, then had to survive seven deuce points to win the next game. Monaco netted three straight returns to concede the second set. The two stayed on serve in the third until Monaco broke Isner to take a 5-3 lead. Monaco won 73 percent of his first-serve points (41 of 56) and took advantage of Isner's five double faults.
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