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Sock ousts Isner, heads back to Houston final

KEY BISCAYNE, FL - MARCH 28: Jack Sock plays a match against Milos Raonic of Canada during Day 8 of the Miami Open presented by Itau at Crandon Park Tennis Center on March 28, 2016 in Key Biscayne, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
April 9, 2016 07:38 PM

By Jackie Finn, USTA.com

It’s back-to-back final appearances on the red clay of Houston for Jack Sock.

The world No. 25 battled compatriot defeated good friend John Isner, ranked No. 15 and the top overall seed, 7-6 (4), 6-3, in the semifinals of the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championship on Saturday.

The two Americans had faced each other a total of six times, with Isner leading the head-to-head 4-2, including a win against Sock on the very same court in 2013. But Sock was able to turn the tables on this day, and with the victory, the 23-year-old is now one match away from defending last year’s title – the first and only of his career.

In Sunday’s final, Sock will face former Top 10 player Juan Monaco, who defeated No. 24 Feliciano Lopez earlier on Saturday. Sock also reached the final earlier this year at the Australian Open tune-up in Auckland.

Sock and Isner went toe-to-toe in a high-quality first set, with each player holding serve comfortably.  Both won more than 75 percent of their first service points and neither player lost the one break point that he faced.

Despite those statistics, the set consisted of some entertaining shot-making. On more than one occasion, Sock was able to move Isner around the court with his powerful forehand, setting up drop shots that Isner could not reach.

On the changeover prior to serving to stay in the set at 5-6, Isner called the trainer after showing signs of discomfort in his left knee. Although he held to force a tiebreak, Sock’s late minibreak sealed the set.

Shortly into the second set, play was halted briefly due to inclement weather. When the players returned to court a few minutes later, Sock continued to build on his momentum, capturing an early break in the third game.

It was all Sock from there on out.

The Nebraska native was able to win 80 percent of his second-serve points and, more impressively, was able to win half of Isner’s second service points – a stroke clearly impacted by his left knee.

For Isner, his appearance in the Houston semifinals was, surprisingly, his best result of the season. He has suffered from a string of close loses, with each of his last four loses coming in final-set tiebreaks, dating back to tournaments in Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro earlier this year.

***

Ed. Note: Sock fell to Monaco in the Houston final, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5.

 

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