- Associated Press - Sunday, April 8, 2012

ROQUEBRUNE, FranceJohn Isner’s big serve and solid forehand proved too strong for Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, defeating the Frenchman 6-3, 7-6 (7-4) 5-7, 6-3 Sunday to put the United States into the Davis Cup semifinals for the first time since 2008.

Tsonga had chances, but could only break his serve once as the Americans took an unassailable 3-1 lead in the series, setting up a match against Spain. Defending champion Spain beat Austria 4-1 behind a win by David Ferrer.

Leading the Americans in the absence of ninth-ranked Mardy Fish, the 11th-ranked Isner played well.

“I if play like I have this weekend, I can beat a lot of people,” Isner said, looking ahead to the contest against Spain. “Beating Gilles [Simon on Friday] and beating Jo are two very good wins. If I can keep this level up, I am going to be very hard to beat.”

Tsonga struggled to stay with Isner until his late rally.

“I gave everything I could in the battle,” Tsonga said. “I didn’t have much luck today, and John took his chances. At 0-3 down in the fourth set, it became ‘Mission Impossible.’ “

Isner built on the U.S. team’s momentum after a straight-set doubles win Saturday. He didn’t face a break point, while the pressure was clearly on the sixth-ranked Tsonga to even the score at the Monte Carlo Country club.

“You have to congratulate him. John Isner was huge today,” France captain Guy Forget said. “He played very well, and he has a lot of talent. Jim Courier is a great leader, and he has a lot of class.”

Gilles Simon defeated 19-year-old American Ryan Harrison 6-2, 6-3 in the inconsequential final match.

It will be Forget’s last match as France’s Davis Cup captain.

The French fans got behind Tsonga early. But when he got to deuce on Isner’s serve in the seventh game, the American’s response was simple - two aces that Tsonga couldn’t get near.

Tsonga trailed 15-40 in the next game, and Isner broke for a 5-3 lead when the Frenchman’s big second serve was slightly too long.

Isner made a statement with his next service game by holding at love and clinching the set in 34 minutes with another ace that whistled past Tsonga before he could move.

Serena wins Family Circle Cup

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Serena Williams capped a week of powerful performances with a 6-0, 6-1 victory over Lucie Safarova to win the Family Circle Cup. It was Williams’ 40th WTA title and first on clay in four years since capturing this championship in 2008.

Williams followed up a 6-1, 6-1 steamroll over Samantha Stosur, the world’s fifth-ranked player, in the semifinals Saturday with her rout of Safarova.

Williams said she had some mediocre practices this week, yet saved her best when it counted most.

She’s not scheduled to play again usntil next month in Madrid, then at the Italian Open before moving on the Paris for the French Open.



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