The host Americans had an opportunity to claim all four semifinal spots and guarantee a home champion on Friday, but only a pair of the hosts emerged victorious as the semifinal lineup was set at the US Men’s Clay Court Championship in Houston. Here’s what happened on day five.
John Isner rode his serve once again in the quarterfinals, advancing with a 7-6(5), 6-4 victory over Korean teenager Hyeon Chung. The young gun put pressure on the top seeds serve, reaching break point seven times in the match, but could not convert any of them. In fact, the Korean actually almost out-served Isner, only losing 17 points on his own serve to 33 by Isner. However, he failed to save the lone break point against his own serve in the match, coming in the second set, which was enough for the American, who edged the opening set tiebreak, to claim victory in an hour and 34 minutes. Despite Chung’s strong returning, Isner still pounded 14 aces.
In a day full of strong serving performances, the best was saved for last, as Jack Sock put on a serve efficiency clinic in his 6-4, 6-4 win over Marcos Baghdatis. The defending champion saved the lone break point he faced in the match, while only losing two points on his first serve in the entire match. Despite being out-aced ten to six by the Cypriot, Sock was mostly unchallenged on serve, dropping a mere 11 points against his serve in total. He backed up his strong serving performance with some good returning, breaking once in each set and winning 57% of his opponents second serve points to advance to the semifinals in an hour and 21 minutes.
Third seed Feliciano Lopez also rode his serve into the semifinals, although he faced far less resistance from wildcard Tim Smyczek. The Spaniard only faced on break point in the whole match, which he saved, in the 6-2, 6-3 victory. Lopez was dominant on serve, particularly in the opening set when he only lost five points on his serve in total. He was also strong on his return, breaking twice in the opening set and once in the second set, pummeling the Smyczek second serve and limiting the American to 37% of his second serve points in the hour and ten-minute match.
There was more disappointment for the Americans in the quarterfinals, as fifth seed Sam Querrey was upset by clay court specialist Juan Monaco 6-4, 6-4. The powerful American had no answers for the Argentinian’s consistent baseline play. One break in each set was enough, as Querrey failed to convert any of his three break point opportunities in the match. Monaco used his solid groundstrokes to put constant pressure on the Americans serve, resulting in ten break points in the match. It only took the 2012 champion an hour and 14 minutes to claim victory.
The semifinals will feature an all-American battle which will see either the top seed or defending champion sent packing when John Isner takes on Jack Sock. The other semifinal will feature third seed Feliciano Lopez and 2012 champion Juan Monaco.