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Houston Wrap Up; Monte Carlo Preview

Isner Blown out of Town; Monaco on his way to Monaco

April 15, 2012 | 05:41 PM

US Clay Court Champion: Juan Monaco (defeats John ISNER 6-2, 3-6, 6-3)

What - no tie-breaker? Explain.

John had two opponents today, and they conspired to keep him from holding serve as he usually does and had done without fail through his first three matches: one was the capable Juan Monaco who played well and smart; the second was the wind which made holding on one side a huge ordeal for John throughout the match. How else explain his playing 20% more points on his serve than Juan, who is not noted as much of a server but won a much higher percentage of his points on serve than John (68% to 59%). Their norms this year have been the reverse, with John winning 69% and Juan 62%. Each won as many return points as usual, leaving John on the short end of total points with 47%. Most of the 16 break points John faced were serving into a wind that gusted into the 40's and gave Juan time from well behind the baseline to track serves down.

Isner definitely didn't blow it, but rather was blown out of town by dervish breezes that not only neutered half his serving might but also baffled him on two key occasions at the net. At 30-30 in his final service game at 3-4 in the 3rd set, he approached well but was countered by a good defensive ball to his low BH volley that almost completely disappeared from his radar. The next point John earned a chance to take a swing but missed it with his BH volley. It was a solid effort for John, showing more of his versatility off both wings in a chess match with a South American clay meister. But today it wasn't enough. John goes home for a well-earned rest before he returns to Euro clay in Madrid next month.

As for Juan Monaco, he finished the week with a well-earned dunk in the club pool, a tradition for winners, after which he catches a flight to none other than Monaco, where he will hope eponymosity can get him through a draw which starts with a fearsome Dutchman, Robin Haase, and after a tryst with either Llodra or Fognini, continues with countryman Thomaz Bellucci or Big Man Kevin Anderson. His reward for continuing a good run will be a quarterfinal with Andy Murray, against whom he is 2-2, with a win on clay and hard, their most recent encounter. So, if he is not out of gas by then, we could be seeing more of the #2 Argentine who is now #13 in the world, his career high rank.


Last year we saw the National Championships of Spain, Part 1 (Rafa v Ferrer in the final) played on this quasi French soil with La France's 4 Musketeers serving as doormats: Monfils, Simon and Gasquet lost in the 3rd round, Tsonga in the 2nd round. Fed was beaten in the quarters by Melzer, and Murray drew Rafa in the semis and lost in 3 sets, 6-1 in the 3rd. Joker sat out.

This year, Joker is in the draw usurping the #1 seed, Fed is taking a pass, and Tsonga has moved up from being seeded 12th to 4th, usurping that spot from Ferrer, who, as a result, finds himself in Joker's quarter and Murray's half. This will have to be his coming out party this year, or he'll be losing big points here to Tsonga, who's draw to a semis with Rafa includes players he should beat: Verdasco, then Simon or Tipsarevic. To make life more difficult for David, he may see a man in his 3rd round who we've seen cut his ranking in half (from #26 at the start of the year to #13), Juan Monaco...

RAFA may be seeded 2nd, but with the best draw the 7 time champ is a favorite, assuming his left knee doesn't go flat on him (he needs a spare).


2012 US Clay Champion: Monaco over I

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