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By Chris Oddo

John Isner Wins Houston Title, 2013 (April 15, 2013) -- The road to Roland Garros picked up a bit of steam this week, and while we're still not at cruising speed (that will come at joint events at Madrid and Rome later this spring), there were some fantastic performances in events at Houston, Casablanca and Katowice.

Without any further ado, here are this week's Heroes and Zeros:

Hero: John Isner

American men's tennis has become the punching bag of the tennis media in recent months. Even noteworthy events, like Querrey's rise to become the 13th American male No. 1, have been met with sarcasm (the top American ranked No. 20 in the world? what a jooooooooooke!). But last week in Houston, big bear John Isner finally came out of hibernation to win his first title of the year and sixth of his career.

Read: Isner Wins title in Houston

For Isner, it was also his first title on clay, and it served as a reminder that the man will not have to wait until grass court season to put up some good results on behalf of American men's tennis this year. Isner can flat-out, without a doubt, get it done on clay.

"I know I can do damage on clay," said Isner, after defeating highly respected dirtballer Nicolas Almagro 6-3, 7-5 on Sunday, adding "I know no one wants to play me on clay" to reinforce the theme.

It used to be that nobody wanted to play Isner on any surface, but after stumbling out of the gate to a 7-8 start in 2013, the big man's reputation seemed to be taking a hit. Now, after a sterling week in Houston, the fear might be back in the eyes of his competitors.

Zero: Seeds 3 through 8 in Katowice

Only the top two seeds made the quarterfinals in Poland, and while Petra Kvitova and Roberta Vinci represented seeds well in a No. 1 vs. No. 2 final, the other six seeds at the inaugural BNP Paribas Katowice Open did not make the quarterfinals. Notable first-round losses were suffered by fourth-seeded Julia Goerges, fifth-seeded Alize Cornet, seventh-seeded Sabine Lisicki and eighth-seeded Laura Robson.

Sixth-seeded Kaia Kanepi and third-seeded Klara Zakopalova lost before the quarterfinals.

Hero: Roberta Vinci

Vinci improved her career record in finals to 8-1 with a straight set victory over the indoor maven Petra Kvitova in Katowice. The victory put Vinci's diversity on display, as well as her very effective serve and surprisingly lethal forehand.

Read: Vinci Wins Inaugural Katowice Open

As a side note, Vinci became only the second player to win a title on each of the following surfaces: Indoor and outdoor hard, indoor and outdoor clay, and grass. Maria Sharapova is the only other active player to have turned the trick. That's not bad company for Vinci, who rises to a career-high ranking of No. 12 in the world this week.

Zero: Ivo Karlovic

Dr. Ivo explained his current malaise best himself when he tweeted: "OK I lost against everybody this year." He went down to up-and-coming American Rhyne Williams in a third-set breaker.

Hero: Jamie Murray and John Peers

The Brit-Aussie pairing saved a match point en route to winning their first title as a team over the World No. 1 Bryan Brothers in the Houston final, 1-6, 7-6(3), 12-10. "They're the best doubles team ever," said Murray afterwards. "It's tough to go out against them in a final, especially in the United States."

It was the 8th career doubles title for Murray and the first for Peers.

Hero: Klara Zakopalova

The Czech makes her top 20 debut at No. 20 in the world.

Zero: Bye

Once, again, Bye failed to get out of the first round last week, going 0-8 combined in Houston and Casablanca.

Hero: Tommy Robredo

Robredo celebrated his first title in more than two years, and the eleventh of the former World No. 5's career, when he defeated Kevin Anderson 7-6(6), 4-6, 6-3 in the Grand Prix Hassan II Final in Casablanca, Morocco.



Read: Robredo Claims Casablance Title over Anderson

The 30-year-old had slipped in the rankings after missing five months with a leg injury in 2012, but he rises 29 spots back to No. 43 today after earning his 10th clay court title and winning a final on the dirt for the eighth time in his last nine finals.

Robredo notched his first top 20 scalp since April of 2011, when he defeated Fernando Verdasco in the third round at Monte Carlo.

Hero: Bryan Brothers

The Brothers, as usual, had a milestone week in Houston despite the loss in the final. They reached their 800th match win as a team.


(Photo Credit: AP)

 

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