#NextGenATP Escobedo Breaks Through In Houston
A week ago, #NextGenATP American Ernesto Escobedo had never won an ATP World Tour match on clay. Safe to say he's now enjoying the surface.
The 20 year old advanced to his first ATP World Tour semi-final on Friday, knocking out second seed and 2013 champion John Isner 7-6(6), 6-7(6), 7-6(5) at the Fayez Sarofim & Co. US Men's Clay Court Championship in Houston.
“I'm speechless right now. I can't believe it. It was a very long match, three tie-breaks. I just stuck with it. I just told myself it's going to happen, just keep on pushing, stay mentally tough,” Escobedo said.
The right-hander notched an ace out wide on his seventh match point to finish off Isner, who delivered a tournament-record 35 aces in the three-hour and two-minute quarter-final. Escobedo improved to 5-0 in matches decided by tie-breaks, including four ATP Challenger Tour contests. Isner, meanwhile, is 3-10 in deciding set tie-breaks since the start of the 2016 season.
Escobedo, who received a wild card into the main draw, will meet Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci, who came back from a break down in the third set to beat third seed Sam Querrey 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. The semi-final will be Bellucci's first in Houston and second of the season. He also reached the last four in Quito. “I'm feeling well. I think it was my best match this week,” he said.
Top seed Jack Sock became the first 20-match winner on the ATP World Tour in 2017 with a 7-6(6), 1-6, 6-4 victory against Spaniard Feliciano Lopez. Sock, the 2015 champion, reaches the Houston semi-finals for the third consecutive year.
He will face compatriot Steve Johnson for the sixth time overall and the third time this season. Sock leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 4-1 and has won both of their 2017 meetings.
Johnson beat fifth seed Fernando Verdasco for the first time in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series. Verdasco had won their past four contests but Johnson saved both break points faced to roll to a 6-2, 6-4 win. “I found my footing great today. I served well, got out of jams, made a lot of first serves,” said Johnson, who's through to his first ATP World Tour clay court semi-final.