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Almagro, Monaco into Houston semis

Top seed Nicolas Almagro and defending champion Juan Monaco each secured berths in the semifinals at the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championship on Friday.

Almagro got past seventh-seeded Italian Paolo Lorenzi in 6-4, 6-4 fashion at River Oaks Country Club. The sweet-swinging Spanish star popped nine aces in the 1-hour, 21-minute victory.

Up next for Almagro will be American wild card Rhyne Williams, who reached his first-ever ATP semifinal by outlasting Spaniard Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo 7-6 (7-1), 1-6, 6-4 in just under 2 1/2 hours on Day 5.

Williams is a 22-year-old from Knoxville, Tenn., and was a two-time All- America at the University of Tennessee.

Monaco, who defeated John Isner in last year's Houston finale, had little trouble with Robby Ginepri in Friday's quarters. The third-seeded Argentine disposed of his American foe 6-1, 6-0 in a match that took just 56 minutes to complete.

Isner set up a rematch with Monaco by topping Ricardas Berankis in three sets, with the towering American outlasting the Lithuanian by a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 score.

The 2013 Houston champ will collect $82,300. This marks the lone ATP clay- court event in the U.S.