The ATP World Tour turned its attention to Houston, Texas this spring and the action sure did not disappoint. River Oaks Country Club hosted the US Men’s Clay Court Championship and our group (Team 31) had the pleasure of attending on April 9, 2016. River Oaks is an affluent neighborhood of Houston and the venue was absolutely beautiful.
The day was jam-packed, with both Men’s Single Semifinal matches and the Men’s Doubles Championship match. First up was Feliciano Lopez vs. Juan Monaco. Lopez got off to a slow start, trailing 1-4 in the first set, but with the crowd getting more and more behind him he was able to come back and tie it up 4-4.
We all wanted to see a tight match, but we also were excited to be a part of Monaco’s come back – this being his first tournament since leaving on injury. Monaco was able to capitalize, however, and steamrolled through the rest of the match, winning 6-4, 6-2.
Next up was the American showdown – John Isner vs. Jack Sock. Our group was completely split on who we were cheering for (personally, I was rooting for Isner because we bumped into him prior to the match and he was extremely friendly). Isner is notorious for taking his matches to tiebreakers, so we were all sitting tight ready for the inevitable.
The first set, not surprisingly, went to a tiebreaker. Jack Sock had played the match very loud and proud up until then – engaging the crowd and getting into disputes with line judges. Regardless, however, Sock narrowly edged Isner in the tiebreaker 7-4. From there on out, it was all Sock – winning the second set 6-3. John Isner definitely was not playing at his best. He called this trainer for a personal injury midway through the match, so he may not have been feeling 100% healthy. Jack Sock played an amazing match however, and he was set to meet Juan Monaco in the finals on Sunday.
Lastly, we got the opportunity to watch the Men’s Doubles Championship match. Victor Estrella Burgos of the Dominican Republic and Santiago Gonzalez of Mexico were taking on the famous duo of the Bryan brothers. There was a clear favorite in the crowd – the Bryan brothers. The twins are the most popular doubles pair of all time and have been for quite some time now. Despite this, however, they had gone months without winning a title going into this match – their opponents were ready to try and maintain this trend. The match went on to a wild start. The Dominican and Mexican pair were completely controlling the points, and quickly took the first set! The Bryan Brothers were able to bounce back and won the second set by an even bigger margin. One of the biggest differences between singles and doubles is the format for the final set. Normally, in a two-out-of-three set match, the format of the sets does not change for the final set. In doubles, however, a third set is not played out in full. Instead, the third set is replaced with a 10-point tiebreaker. This rule has come with much controversy because it seems to lessen the importance of doubles and intentionally shorten the match. Regardless of the controversy, the tiebreaker started and was extremely tight. The two pairs went back and forth with their points, and nobody seemed to be letting up. The Bryan Brothers were able to capitalize at the very end of the tiebreaker, and win 10-8! The crowd was going absolutely crazy by now, and it was a great moment to see the brothers finally win a title. We had a lot of fun keeping up with this match, as there is a huge difference in pace and feel compared to singles matches. Our group also had the opportunity to stay and see the trophy ceremony.
Overall, our experience at the US Men’s Clay Court Championship was extremely positive. Members of our group who were not aware of the tennis environment were surprised at how fun and engaging the sport is, and after the experience they were definite fans. Leaving the event, the crowd talk was in regards to the men’s final which would be the next day. Everyone obviously wanted Sock, the American, to win the tournament. This, however, didn’t happen – Jack Sock lost to Juan Monaco 3-6, 6-3, 7-5. We can only imagine how exciting that match must have been, and we look forward to potentially coming back to Houston again next year.