Fritz tops Sock, Johnson edges Isner to join Sandgren in Houston semis

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Steve Johnson was one of three Americans to reach the semifinals of Houston, the only ATP clay-court tournament in the U.S. (AP)

A pair of all-American match-ups, both of which turned out to be absolute nail-biters, highlighted the quarterfinal Friday schedule at the Fayez Sarofim & Co. US Men’s Clay Court Championship in Houston.

Jack Sock and Taylor Fritz was the first pair of Americans to take the court, and just like their only two previous meetings—five-set wins for Sock at the Australian and US Opens in 2016—this one went the distance. Unlike those matches, this distance was three sets; unlike those matches, it was Fritz who came out on top, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4:

At 3-3 in the second set, just a few games from defeat, the third-seeded Sock won seven of the next nine games to force a decider and take a 4-2 led in the third. But that’s when Fritz found his game once more, reeling off the last four games to score his third Top 20 win of his young career.

“I just stayed with it and was able to come up on the points that mattered,” Fritz said. “It’s tough—the margins in tennis are so small, it’s a point here and there—but I’m just happy to get through.”

Fritz is now into his second career ATP World Tour semifinal. His first came on indoor hardcourts at Memphis two years ago, where he made it all the way to the final before falling to Kei Nishikori.

“In Memphis I was just playing so well for that stretch, I was playing out of my mind,” he added.

“Now I feel like I’m playing more within myself, and to a level I know I can be playing at. I’m a lot more ready now and a better player than I was back then. I know I can consistently have these results.”

Fritz’s semifinal opponent will be No. 6 seed Steve Johnson, who never broke serve but snuck out two tie-breaks to snap the eight-match winning streak of John Isner, the No. 1 seed and recent Miami Open champion, 7-6 (4), 4-6, 7-6 (5):

Johnson, who with the win broke a 4-4 head-to-head tie against the world No. 9, also picked up the second-best win of his career. Last year in Tokyo, Johnson upset then-world No. 7 Dominic Thiem.

Rounding out the quarterfinal winners were another American, No. 8 seed Tennys Sandgren, who reached the first ATP World Tour semifinal of his career with a 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 win over Guido Pella, and Ivo Karlovic, who rallied to beat Nick Kyrgios, 3-6, 6-2, 6-3.

Karlovic made a little bit of history on Friday—the 39-year-old Croat is the oldest player to reach an ATP World Tour semifinal since a 40-year-old Jimmy Connors achieved the feat in San Francisco in 1993.

And despite losing his match, Isner also made some history himself—his 28 aces on the night pushed him to 10,009 career aces. He's just the fourth man in (recorded) ATP World Tour history to reach 10,000 aces—after Karlovic, who has 12,622; Roger Federer, who has 10,463; and Goran Ivanisevic, who has 10,131.

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