ATP Houston: Juan Monaco Outlasts Jack Sock for Title
Juan Monaco kisses the trophy in Houston. Photo: US Men's Clay Court Championship

Juan Monaco ended a three-year title drought on Sunday, claiming his second US Men’s Clay Court Championship title in a wild final, holding off defending champion Jack Sock 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 in two hours and 20 minutes to win the ninth title of his career.

Sock Battles Through Wild Start for Opening Set

Sock showed no signs of nerves in his first ever title defence, as he put the pressure on the Monaco serve immediately in the second game. The defending champion raced to 15-40 in his opponents first service game and converted his first break point to grab an immediate 2-0 lead.

Sock lines up a forehand during his finals defeat. Photo: Aaron M. Sprecher/ROCC
Sock lines up a forehand during his finals defeat. Photo: Aaron M. Sprecher/ROCC

Despite his brilliant start Monaco was not about to be left behind. The next few service games were extremely contentious and the pair exchanged breaks. When the dust finally settled, Sock was still up by a break at 3-1. The young American had been riding his serve throughout the tournament, and he finally found his range after the wild start. Monaco also upped his own game on serve, but it was too little too late. Neither player reached break point again for the remainder of the set, and Sock held on to claim the set 6-3.

Strong Serving from Monaco Forces Decider

Monaco the tables on Sock almost immediately in the second set. The Argentinian did a better job of carrying his strong serving over to the second set, and broke Sock in the third game for a 2-1 lead. The American had no answer to Monaco’s dominant serve and was in trouble down the break.

Monaco hits a backhand during the final. Photo: Aaron M. Sprecher/ROCC
Monaco hits a backhand during the final. Photo: Aaron M. Sprecher/ROCC

Things got worse in the sixth game, when Sock was in trouble on serve again and was forced to save another break point to keep the set from escaping him. But the effort was all for not, as the American had no answer to the dominant Monaco serve. In the entire second set, the Argentinian only dropped five points on serve and did not allow Sock a single break point opportunity. The early break would prove to be enough for Monaco, as he rode that dominant serve to force a deciding set.

Monaco Holds Off Sock for Title

The momentum was firmly in the Argentine’s corner as the deciding set started, and he took advantage quickly by racing to a 0-40 lead on Sock’s serve in the opening game of the set. With the way Monaco was serving, it seemed like a break would seal the match for the 2012 champion. The reigning champion temporarily stopped the bleeding by saving all three break points, but Monaco was not to be denied and brought up an advantage and converted for the early break lead.

It felt like Monaco was unstoppable with the way he was serving, and things went from bad to worse for Sock when Monaco broke again for a 4-1 lead and was two games away from the title. However, seemingly out of nowhere, the tables turned completely yet again and, after two sets of near-perfect serving, Monaco was broken and suddenly, Sock had closed the gap to 4-3.

Monaco drops to his knees after clinching the title. Photo: Aaron M. Sprecher/ROCC
Monaco drops to his knees after clinching the title. Photo: Aaron M. Sprecher/ROCC

The momentum had suddenly completely swung to the American, and in Monaco’s next game, Sock broke for the second time to even the set at 4-4. It seemed as though Sock’s comeback was going to be for nothing when he fell behind double break point in the next game. But he kept fighting saving both and holding to move to within a game of the title. But then it was Monaco’s turn to fight back once again. After holding, he brought up a handful of break points in a wild 11th game, finally breaking through to give himself a chance to serve for the match. The Argentine made no mistake, converting his match point to claim the title.

By the Numbers

Sock put less than 50% of his first serves in play, but still managed to win 68% of those points. Monaco got 83% of his first serve points in, but only managed 66% of those points. The big difference was break point opportunities. Monaco brought up 15 chances on the Sock serve, converting five of them. Sock only reached break point six times, although he converted four of them. Between his breaks of serve in the first and third sets, Sock did not hold a single break point opportunity.

The title is the ninth of Monaco’s career, first of the season, and second at the US Men’s Clay Court Championship.

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