Juan Monaco claims Houston claycourt title, beats Isner

Fourth-seeded wild card Juan Monaco knocked off second seed John Isner 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 to capture the US Men’s Clay Court Championship trophy Sunday in Houston.

Monaco broke Isner twice in the first set, ending the American’s run of 45 successive service holds at the ATP World Tour 250 event. The Argentine saved eight of nine break points against his serve to claim victory in two hours and 28 minutes, notching his first win in three meetings with Isner.

“I think we played a great final,” said Monaco. “The first set, I played really well, and then he came back in the second set. 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 for that.”

The 16th-ranked Monaco is 11-2 on clay in 2012, adding to his triumph at the VTR Open in Vina del Mar (d. Berlocq). With his first title on US soil, the 28 year old will equal his career-high South African Airways ATP Ranking of No. 14 on Monday.

“This is a great moment in my career. I’ve worked very hard to be here,” Monaco said. “I have the clay-court season in Europe now, which is very important for me. This tournament is going to bring me a lot of confidence.”

Isner was bidding to win his first trophy of the year, having also finished runner-up at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells (l. to Federer). He dropped to 0-2 in clay-court title matches.

“I came out of the gates slow. I wasn’t quite there,” admitted Isner. “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. I saved a number of break points. 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 was the best match I played all week. That’s encouraging. I was a little tired, but I didn’t feel it at the end.”

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