Upsets ruled the 2014 U.S. Men's Clay Court Championship early on. Top seeds John Isner and Tommy Robredo both lost in their first matches.
After slow starts in 2014, Nicolas Almagro and Fernando Verdasco were the only seeds to make it safely through to the quarterfinals and eventually met each other in the final.
Now let's look back at the week in Houston.
Top Seeds Fall Early
The top two seeds were both eliminated in their first match. John Isner's repeat title run ended against the all-out attacking game of Dustin Brown.
Isner was unable to convert on any of his nine break-point opportunities. The repeat title drought continues for another year in Houston. Andy Roddick was the last champion to repeat back in 2002.
Tommy Robredo fell victim to Santiago Giraldo in his first match. According to atpworldtour.com, this is what Robredo had to say after the match:
I had a lot of chances in a lot of games, and every time it was love/30, 15/30, I was hitting three in a row straight to the fence. With this, there’s no chance to win. Just need to keep working to see if I can have a great feeling for the next tournament.
Isner decided to take Monte Carlo off, but Robredo has already won his first round there. Look for this slip-up in Houston to be just a minor setback for Robredo. I like his chances to advance deep in the tournament in Monte Carlo.
For Isner, this could be a sign of things to come during the clay-court season. He has never excelled on the surface and won't do too much damage again until the grass-court season.
Monaco Records 200th Match Win On Clay
With a win over Somdev Devvarman, Juan Monaco joined elite clay-court company. He became the fifth active player to reach 200 wins on clay.
According to atpworldtour.com, Monaco had this to say after the match: "It’s not easy, if you can see the guys who [achieve] this stat, it’s amazing. I was born playing on clay, so this is something really special for me. I didn’t expect that when I started my career, to win 200 matches on clay.”
Unfortunately for Monaco, the celebration did not last long. He was upset by Donald Young in his next match.
This accomplishment displays the great career Monaco has had up to this point. However, 2014 has been a disaster. He is now just 4-8 on the year.
Monaco has been mostly a clay-court specialist in his career, as he only has 86 total wins on the other surfaces. The Argentine should be able to improve his record during the next couple of months of clay-court tournaments.
Almagro and Verdasco Turn Their Seasons Around
Clay seemed to be the perfect remedy for Almagro and Verdasco. Almagro came in at just 5-5, while Verdasco was even worse at 5-6.
The Spaniards were able to survive into the final while all of the other seeds crumbled around them. (Highlights above.)
Verdasco ultimately came on top and was ecstatic to finally be lifting a trophy once again. According to atpworldtour.com here is what he had to say after the win:
It’s been a long time since I’ve won a singles title, it’s a very important day for me to win a tournament after a few years, and after the injury in my knee the last couple years, not feeling so well and not being able to play a few matches in a row feeling well. I’m so happy for everything in general.
Almagro has now lost his last four finals matches. He was also the finalist here last season. Both players will be moving onto Monte Carlo next.
Verdasco was dealt a very difficult draw in Monte Carlo. His first match is against Marin Cilic and if he wins that he will take on Stanislas Wawrinka.
Almagro was placed in the same quarter, but he has much easier opponents in his first two matches. He will take on Paul-Henri Mathieu and then Nicolas Mahut if he advances.
They could end up playing each other again this week if Verdasco manages to pull off the upset of Wawrinka. After a long week here, I don't see Verdasco or Almagro making it past a well-rested Wawrinka.
Both players should take confidence from their result here and pick up their play during the clay-court season.
All Stats Courtesy of atpworldtour.com