The 2013 U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships will come to a close this weekend in Houston, but not before two big-time singles semifinal showdowns on Saturday afternoon.
With the Big Four absent at River Oaks Country Club, Nicolas Almagro, Juan Monaco and John Isner are the top stars to watch for this weekend. The three ATP Top 25 players will be joined by wild card Rhyne Williams, who has won three straight matches to make a surprising appearance in this weekend's semifinals.
Here, we'll get you set with everything you need to know for Saturday's singles action on the red clay in Clutch City.
*Singles semifinals will begin on Saturday at 2 p.m. ET
Where: River Oaks Country Club in Houston
When: Monday, April 8 through Sunday, April 14, 2013
Watch: Tennis Channel
Live Stream: TennisTV.com
Nicolas Almagro Looking to Make First Houston Final
Top-seeded Spaniard Nicolas Almagro will have to avoid an upset bid from American Rhyne Williams on Saturday if he's to make his first appearance in the final of the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championship.
Almagro will be an overwhelming favorite in this match—and for good reason. He's won four straight sets and is taking on a 22-year-old wild card who has needed eight sets and a trio of tiebreakers to advance this far. Williams has to be drained after his thrilling three-set quarterfinal win over Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo on Friday.
But even if Williams' 22-year-old body responds the way he hopes on Saturday, I'm not sure he'll have enough in his arsenal to push Almagro to three sets.
The 27-year-old has won 12 singles titles on clay since 2006 and knows how to move and operate on this surface. Look for the more experienced Almagro to send a message early en route to earning a berth in Sunday's tournament final.
John Isner, Juan Monaco Face Off in 2012 Rematch
American John Isner, the No. 5 seed, will square off with third-seeded Argentine Juan Monaco on Saturday in the singles semifinals. The matchup will be a rematch of last year's tournament final, which Monaco took in three hard-fought sets.
While Isner typically has a huge advantage on serve, the slower-playing clay surface will make him less effective in that department. Plus, Monaco is an experienced clay-court player who has won six of his seven career singles tournaments on this surface.
Also, he won his only meeting on clay with Isner last April at this same venue.
I like Monaco in this semifinal. He's yet to drop a set in Houston, and he absolutely crushed Robby Ginepri in the quarterfinals, winning 6-1, 6-0. Meanwhile, the 6'9" Isner is 0-2 for his career in clay-court singles finals.
As the defending champion, Monaco's the player to beat. And on the clay, Isner is at a major disadvantage, even with the pro-American crowd on his side.
*Event information according to MensClayCourt.com.
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