Pico Reigns Supreme: 2012 ATP Houston Recap
By Steen Kirby, TennisEastCoast.com
[EDITOR: Tennis East Coast Phenom Columnist Steen Kirby picked not only the winner of the US Men's Clay Court Championship, he also picked the participants in the final. I don't bet on tennis, but if I did, I'd have Steen "The Teen" Kirby by my side, like Tatum O'Neal in Paper Moon.]
The US Mens Clay Court Championships in Houston wrapped up yesterday with Juan “Pico” Monaco taking out John Isner in a tough 3 set battle. Monaco took out Tatsuma Ito, 5 seed Kevin Anderson and Michael Russell en route to the final.
Russell was the story of the week, though. The Houston resident upset his countryman, slumping top-seed Mardy Fish in straights after knocking off Daniel-Gimeno Traver in 3 sets in his 1st round match. He then proceeded to take out another American, Ryan Harrison, to reach the semis before falling to Monaco in 3 sets. Russell also had to qualify to reach the main draw where he took out Denes Lukacs and Daniel Kosakowski. It was the best result and tournament run of his career at the age of 32, no less.
On the bottom half of the draw, Isner, who was a favorite going in, beat Argentine Horacio Zeballos in 3 sets, then dispatched defending champ Ryan Sweeting in 2 long tie break sets in what was a tough match, and finally beat Feliciano Lopez in 3 sets to reach the final.
Sweeting, before falling to Isner, beat Brazilian Ricardo Mello in the 1st round and fellow American Bobby Reynolds, who notched a good win over Ivo Karlovic in the 1st round.
Lopez took out Paolo Lorenzi and Carlos Berlocq before falling to Isner. Berlocq was playing good tennis but suffered an injury during the match with Lopez, but after losing the 1st set and struggling early in the 2nd he was forced to retire.
Ryan Harrison also notched a couple of good wins over Alex Bogomolov in the 1st round (3 sets) and Igor Kunitsyn in the 2nd before falling to surprise semi-finalist Russell.
If you read my ATP Houston preview last week, I predicted a Monaco vs. Isner final with Monaco taking it and that is exactly what happened. Monaco has been playing excellent tennis this season on both clay and hard courts and is certainly a dangerous floater in any draw– especially on clay. He and Isner, who has also had a great year thus far, are a couple of hot players nobody wants to face.
Speaking of the clay, I couldn’t help but notice the unique surface that at River Oaks Country Club in Houston. Opinions on it range from “it’s just dirt” to “what a new unique surface”. A couple of tennis tweeters noted it didn’t leave many marks and doesn’t have any sheen to it. I tend to agree.
On the doubles side, James Blake and Sam Querrey took home the title to the delight of American fans in what was a bit of a surprise. They beat Treat Huey and Dominic Inglot to take the title in straight sets.
The ATP World Tour heads to Monte Carlo now while many of the ATP Houston participants such as Isner will be skipping it due to the travel and distance, while others such as Monaco will get right back to it, plying their trade on red clay this time.
There is also a USTA Pro Circuit event in Sarasota this week that has a pretty good field of entrants. Stay tuned to Tennis East Coast for the ever-changing headline.