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  • Isner faces Lopez, Monaco meets Russell

    4/14/12 4:58 AM | Ricky Dimon
    Isner faces Lopez, Monaco meets Russell John Isner will aim for a spot in the Houston title match as he goes up against Feliciano Lopez on Saturday. Juan Monaco and Michael Russell are also in semifinal action.

    (3) Feliciano Lopez vs. (2) John Isner

    Lopez and Isner will be going head-to-head for the third time in their careers and for the second time this season when they collide in the semifinals of the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships on Saturday. They faced each in round three of the 2012 Australian Open, with Lopez surviving in five sets 6-3, 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-7(0), 6-1. A Paris Masters clash just a few months prior went Isner's way 6-4, 6-2.

    A red-hot Isner is 19-6 for the season thanks to victories this week over Horacio Zeballos (in three) and defending champion Ryan Sweeting (in two tiebreakers). The 10th-ranked American, though, has looked just a bit sluggish following Davis Cup heroics last weekend in Monte Carlo. Lopez appears to be getting on track after a post-Aussie Open slump. The 15th-ranked Spaniard has not dropped a set in wins over Paolo Lorenzi and Carlos Berlocq (via second-set retirement). Unless Isner finds another gear, this match will all come down to first-serve percentage and percentage of second-serve points won.

    (Q) Michael Russell vs. (4) Juan Monaco

    Fourteen years after turning pro, the 33-year-old Russell is through to his first career ATP semifinal. It has been dream week for the Houston resident, who had to go through qualifying just to get into the main draw. He then came back from a set down to beat Daniel Gimeno-Traver, crushed No. 1 seed Mardy Fish 6-3, 6-1, and upset Ryan Harrison 6-1, 5-7, 6-3 on Friday. Russell is now 5-4 at the ATP level for his 2012 campaign.

    Up next for Russell in a second career meeting with Monaco. Their only previous encounter came five years ago on the clay courts of Poertschach, where Monaco dominated 6-3, 6-1. The 16th-ranked Argentine is playing arguably the best tennis of his career at the moment. He reached the Miami semifinals two weeks ago and is now 14-5 for the season after straight-set victories over Tatsuma Ito and Kevin Anderson. Russell is not going to bow out of this tournament without a huge fight, but Monaco in two tight sets is the pick.

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