HOUSTON: US second seed John Isner outlasted Spanish third seed Feliciano Lopez 6-7 (5-7), 7-6 (7-4), 6-3 on Saturday to reach the final of the US$442,500 (RM1.35 million) ATP US men's Clay-Court Championship.
As a result, the power-serving American ensured he will rise from 10th to ninth in the ATP rankings today, 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 the final against Argentina's fourth-seeded Juan 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."
Lopez broke a 4-4 deadlock in the first tie-breaker with back-to-back points before Isner saved one off the Spaniard's serve with a drop volley winner, only to net a forehand volley to drop the opening set.
Isner took advantage of his first set point in the second tie-breaker when Lopez sent a backhand wide.
In the third set, Isner smacked a backhand down the line winner to break Lopez for a 4-2 lead and held serve from there for the triumph.
Isner, a runner-up last month at Indian Wells, seeks his first clay-court ATP crown against Monaco. AFP