U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championships have a long tradition, it’s been as long as the Open era (and even longer, the first championships took place in 1910). The event was held in different cities, since 2001 it’s been Houston. This year the field was stronger than in the last five/six years, and in the windy final met the Top 10 challengers: John Isner  faced Juan Monaco . The Argentine hit the sideline serving at 2-all (15/40) in the 3rd set with a risky backhand and it was a vital point for the final outcome, he also hit the baseline (with a forehand) at 1:2* (15/40) in the 3rd set against Michael Russell in the semifinal, which allowed him to break back. The qualifier Russell – a Houston resident – advanced for the first time in his career to ATP semifinals, it’s really weird taking into account that he was one point away from reaching Roland Garros quarterfinals eleven years ago. Monaco has improved his record this year on clay to an impressive 11-2… James Blake has been out of form for months, perhaps he’s regained self-confidence winning the 6th title in doubles – his first since 2004. Teamed up with Sam Querrey he saved five match points in the first round, and five set points in the 1st set tie-break of the final match against newcomers. “The week was great, as I haven’t been in the winners’ circle in a while,” said Blake. “I remember when I won my first doubles title, it was a precursor to my first singles title the next weekend. I think it shows I’m starting to play well and getting confidence. I’ll take it anywhere I can get it.” Next Monday starts a challenger in Sarasota, Blake is a top seed. Taking a first title at the Grand Prix Hassan II in Casablancalast year, Pablo Andujar  made quite a big surprise. Twelve months later he came back to Morocco as one of the biggest title contenders and didn’t disappoint his supporters winning convincingly four matches in a row. In a final (twice interrupted by rain in latter stages of the 2nd set and finished in heavy rain) he overcame a 3:5 deficit in the 2nd set against a fellow Spaniard, Albert Ramos  for whom it was the first ATP final. Andujar began his title defense beating Potito Starace – last year’s final opponent. The Spaniard in each of these matches lost just three games (6-1 6-2 last year, 6-3 6-0 this week).
S: (4,WC)Juan Monaco d. (2)John Isner 6-2, 3-6, 6-3
D: J.Blake/S.Querrey d. T.C.Huey/D.Inglot 7-6(14), 6-4
S: (3)Pablo Andujar d. (7)Albert Ramos 6-1, 7-6(5)
D: D.Brown/P.Hanley d. (4)D.Bracciali/F.Fognini 7-5, 6-3
Choker of the week: Daniel Gimeno-Traver, who won the 1st set easily against Michael Russell in Houston (first round), led 5:3* (30 all) in the 2nd set, but Russell survived 2-6, 7-5, 6-1.