houston: juan monaco will defend title; monfils and querrey join field



u.s. men's claycourt championships - logo

HOUSTON – Argentina’s Juan Monaco will defend his US Men’s Clay Court Championship title when the tournament returns to River Oaks Country Club April 8-14, and he will be accompanied in the field by American Sam Querrey and Frenchman Gael Monfils.

These three players join the previously announced commitments from top-ranked American John Isner and Spaniards Nicolas Almagro and Fernando Verdasco in the singles field and American twins Bob and Mike Bryan in the doubles field.

These singles entries put five players from the Top 25 of the current ATP World Tour rankings into the field for the tournament at River Oaks. As of Monday, Almagro was No. 11, Monaco No. 15, Isner No. 16, Querry No. 20 and Verdasco No. 24.

“We always take pride in exposing our fans to new players, so it is with great pleasure we can have guys like Monfils, Almagro and Verdasco making their River Oaks debut this year,” said Tournament Director Van Barry. “We are also happy to welcome back familiar faces. Juan Monaco was a popular champion last year, and the group of Americans we have returning have long been fan favorites here in Houston.”

Monaco will try to be the first repeat champion of the event since the recently retired Andy Roddick won back-to-back titles in 2001-02. The win at River Oaks last year was one of his career-high four titles in 2012. He has reached at least one clay court final in seven of the past eight seasons, and six of Monaco’s seven career titles have come on clay.

Querrey teamed with James Blake to win the 2012 doubles title at River Oaks. He’s also enjoyed singles success, reaching the final in 2010. He has won seven titles while appearing in 12 finals in his career, and earlier this month helped the US reach the Davis Cup quarterfinal with a pair of singles wins against Brazil.

Monfils has finished in the Top 20 in the World in four of the past five seasons. He has reached 17 career ATP finals, winning four titles. He was a finalist twice early in 2012 before a knee injury forced him to miss nearly four months. He already has reached one semifinal and another quarterfinal early in 2013.

In last year’s final, Monaco defeated Isner, who in 2012 reached the Top 10 for the first time. Almagro has led the ATP in clay court match wins three times in the past five seasons and is one of only four players with over 200 career clay court wins. Verdasco has reached 10 career clay court finals and finished in the Top 25 in five straight seasons.

The Bryan Brothers are the World No. 1 doubles team and four-time champions at the US Men’s Clay Court Championship. They own the record for Grand Slam titles with 13 together as well as total career titles together with 84.

Individual session tickets and the very popular “Champ Pass” are on sale on now. The Champ Pass for the 2013 US Men’s Clay Court Championship includes a ticket to the Friday, Saturday and Sunday sessions. “The Champ Pass” usually sells out before the tournament begins. A limited number of season ticket packages are still remaining. Information on tickets can be found at www.mensclaycourt.com or by calling 713-874-6294.

fashion focus: australian open highlight(er)s



The fashions on the courts of Australian Open are a little more subtle this year, but a few things have stood out, most notably the presence of bright yellows and greens — the highlighter shades — for match play.

Alexandr Dolgopolov - Gael Monfils - Andy Murray - 2013 Australian Open

Gael Monfils (center), now a member of the Asics stable (he was previously with K-Swiss), played in a sleeveless crew — the Frenchman’s trademark — as he upset 18th seed Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-7(7), 7-6(4), 6-3, 6-3 in the first round. Andy Murray, on the right, is wearing this season’s Barricade crew, with the same shoulder detail that carried through from the end of last season.

Maria Sharapova - Nike - 2013 Australian Open

Grey was also the accent color of choice, with the straps on Maria Sharapova‘s Premier Tennis Dress from Nike in that shade (but we’re in love with the futuristic lines at the check and in the racerback), as well as the trims on the men’s adidas adiZero (on Dolgo) and Barricade (Murray) lines for the Australian summer.

More: Lisicki, Caro, Tomic, and the boys of Lotto all wear the brights — see ‘em  after the cut…

trophy watch: sometimes, we like what we see



Pieces, people. Working. Sometimes the right trophies land in the right arms with the rights outfits covering the right bodies. That was the case last weekend, as the WTA wrapped up its regular-season play and the ATP moved toward its World Tour Finals in London set for the middle of November. Above, Gael Monfils complemented his globe-and-box trophy with a well-chiseled bicep and a head of looks-just-right locks. He downed Jarko Nieminen in Stockholm 7-5, 3-6, 6-2.

Don’t harp on Vika. Seriously. We kind of love this one, too. The half tennis racket slash harp look works well with the stone texture. And, luckily Victoria Azarenka is wearing a well-matching dark tone. It was a bright week for the world no. 3 in Luxembourg, where she took care of Monica Niculescu in straight sets, 6-2, 6-2. Vika opens her Istanbul campaign tomorrow against Sam Stosur.

Double the fun. Since the US Open, Janko Tipsarevic has nabbed two ATP titles. Before it zero? Ever. Tipsy beat Viktor Troicki in the first-ever all-Serb final in Moscow, 6-2 6-4. Must be his new bod, right?

Saving the first for last. Last but not least: Dominika Cibulkova got her first trophy smooch of her career in Moscow. The pesky Slovakian downed Lucie Safarova, 3-6 7-6 (1) 7-5. | TSF Vault: More trophies to watch

(images by Getty; Azarenka photo by Fern Konnen via the WTA)

trophy watch: winners, coast-to-coast



How are these for awkward? If last week was the week of the amazingly awkward trophies, this week it’s the humans who take their turn at awkwardness. We love the trio above, as finalist Gael Monfils and winner Radek Stepanek pose with a parks official after their Legg Mason Classic title match. Stepanek upset Monfils, the top seed, 6-4 6-4. Meanwhile, below, Agnieszka Radwanska and Vera Zvonareva look o-v-e-r it in San Diego following Radwanska’s 6-3 6-4 win over Vera at the Mercury Insurance Open. Are these two friends? We can’t tell. But oy! Isn’t Aggie’s bandage an ugly sight?

Oops! He did it again. Stepanek celebrates another US Open Series title with “The Worm”

(Images via Getty)

monfils wears k-swiss fading stripe in purple



Purple, please: Roland Garros 14th seed Gael Monfils booked a spot in the fourth round by taking out Belgian Steve Darcis in straight sets. He’ll go up against David Ferrer — the Spaniard we predict will go all the way to the semis. Yep, that means a potential win over Roger Federer. (Draw: RG Men’s Singles)

With the Nike men toning down their attire, Gael and K-Swiss have stepped up by using purple and showing off the Frenchman’s guns this spring. The color always reminds us of Serena‘s clay dress from 2007. More info: K-Swiss Fading Stripe Series.

More: A few more on-court pics of Gael going up against Bjorn Phau and Steve Darcis after the cut…