John Isner outlasted Feliciano Lopez 6-7 (5-7), 7-6 (7-4), 6-3 to reach the final of the $442,500 ATP US Men's Clay Court Championship aganst Juan Monaco.
As a result, the power-serving American ensured he will rise from 10th to ninth in the ATP rankings on Monday, passing Mardy Fish to become the top-rated US player in the world.
"That has been one of my goals for a long, long time," Isner said. "I'm so happy to accomplish it."
Isner, who sparked a US semi-final Davis Cup triumph on French clay to book a semi-final date with Spain in September, will seek his fourth career title in tomorrow's final against Argentina's fourth-seed Monaco, who beat US qualifier Michael Russell 5-7, 6-1, 6-4 in the other semi-final.
"It's going to be difficult for me," Monaco said. "I will have to be ready with my returns."
Isner has held serve in 44 consecutive games at the only ATP clay-court event in his homeland, although he was pressed for the first two sets by the Spaniard.
"I knew going into this match it was going to be tough," Isner said. "I always find myself playing my best when my back is against the wall and tonight was no different."
Isner, a runner-up last month at Indian Wells, seeks his first clay-court ATP crown against Monaco.
"It's most likely his best surface," Isner said. "I'm going to have to play well. He's having a great year."
Monaco, ranked 16th in the world, won his fourth career ATP title, and first since 2007, in February at Vina del Mar and reached the semi-finals last month at Miami, losing to the eventual winner, world number one Novak Djokovic.
Monaco served to reach a first-set tie-breaker but hometown hero Russell broke him in five points, claiming the set when the South American netted a forehand volley.
Monaco dominated the second set and battled in the third. Trying to level the final set in the 10th game, Russell sent a backhand beyond the baseline to hand Monaco a match point, then netted a backhand to send Monaco to his 13th ATP final.
AFPTags: sport, tennis, united-states First posted April 15, 2012 10:31:15