HOUSTON: Fifth seeded John Isner claimed his sixth career title and first on clay by beating Nicolas Almagro in straight sets in the final of the US Clay Court Championships on Sunday.
The hard-serving American blasted seven aces en route to a 6-3, 7-5 win over the Spanish clay court specialist at River Oaks Country Club in Houston.
Isner, who was the runner-up in this event last year, went one better this time, being broken just once in the 81-minute match.
“I’ve always known I could play well on clay,” said Isner. “This week is a little surprising, as Monday was the first day I hit a ball on clay since September.
“I knew it was going to be a tough adjustment and that I had to find a way to get through my first match. My second match was really close. I felt I played better each and every round. I played well yesterday and even better today.”
Even though all 12 of Almagro’s career titles have come on clay, he couldn’t make it 13 on Sunday, failing to overcome four double faults and three service breaks.
“He did a really good job today,” Almagro said of Isner. “He played aggressive.
“He served like normal, but today was tough for me. I want to congratulate him, because he’s a really good player.”
Isner, who finished second to Juan Monaco last year, avenged that loss with a three-set win over the Argentine in the semi-finals on Saturday.
Italian second seed Roberta Vinci won her eighth career singles title on Sunday when she beat top-seeded Czech Petra Kvitova 7-6 (7/2), 6-1 in the Katowice Open final.
The win for the Italian should move her to a career-high 12 when the new rankings are released on Monday.
“I played a really good game today,” said Vinci.
“Petra was playing very well and very aggressively in the first set, but I stayed with her and won the tie-break, and things were better in the second set, probably because she was a little bit tired.”
Robredo reigns supreme
Spain’s Tommy Robredo ended a two-year trophy drought on Sunday when he captured his 10th claycourt title by beating South Africa’s Kevin Anderson 7-6 (8/6), 4-6, 6-3 in the final of the Grand Prix Hassan II. The 30-year-old, whose last title came on clay at Santiago in February 2011, will see his ranking return to the top 50.
Robredo, a former world number five, missed five months of the season in 2012 with a leg injury and saw his ranking crash to 471.
“I’m very happy to win a title again after my injury,” he said.
“Those points will help me a lot in the ranking. The goal is to arrive in Roland Garros in the best form possible. After that I will sit down and have a look at my goals.”
Anderson was contesting his first tour-level final on clay and fell at the final hurdle for the second time this year.
Prize money hiked
The French Open’s total prize money for 2013 has been increased by more than three million euros to 22 million euros ($28.77 million), organisers said on Monday.
The winners of the men’s and women’s singles titles will each earn 1.5 million euros, up 250,000 euros from last year.
Organisers added that the move was part of plans to boost the total prize money by a further 10 million euros to 32 million euros by 2016.
In comparison, US Open prize money will reach $33.6 million this year and rise to $50 million by 2017, while Wimbledon prize money was more than $24.61 million) in 2012.