Monte-Carlo Masters Monday Preview: Two of the ATP’s Fastest-Rising Stars Meet in the First Round - UBITENNIS
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Monte-Carlo Masters Monday Preview: Two of the ATP’s Fastest-Rising Stars Meet in the First Round

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Lorenzo Musetti on court last week at the Sardegna Open (twitter.com/ATP)

19-year-old Lorenzo Musetti and 27-year-old Aslan Karatsev have skyrocketed up the rankings since the tour restart last summer, and their first career meeting will open Monday’s play.  We’ll also get our first look at Felix Auger-Aliassime with new coach Toni Nadal on his team, as he faces one of the ATP’s best clay court players.  And the defending champion of this event from 2019, Fabio Fognini, will play his opening match against a 21-year-old who won his first ATP title last September on clay.

 

Eight of the top 10 players in the world are entered into this draw, all of whom received first round byes.  Only Roger Federer and Dominic Thiem are absent from this event.  World No.1 Novak Djokovic, new No.2 Daniil Medvedev, and 11-time champion Rafael Nadal are the top seeds.

With rain and cool temperatures forecast for this week in Monte-Carlo, slow conditions, along with weather delays, should be anticipated.

Throughout the week, this preview will analyze the most prominent match of the day, and note the other intriguing matchups on the day’s schedule.  Monday’s play will begin at 11:00am local time.

Aslan Karatsev vs. Lorenzo Musetti (WC) – 11:00am on Court Rainier III

When tour events re-started last August, Karatsev was ranked 253rd in the world.  And the veteran had never been inside the top 150.  But after training hard and playing many exhibitions during the tour shutdown, the Russian’s career exploded.  Since August, he is an astonishing 42-9 at all levels, with two Challenger titles and one tour-level title.  And in his first-ever main draw appearance at a Major, he reached the semifinals in Melbourne, with victories over three top 20 seeds.  Despite the current two-year frozen ranking system, he’s risen all the way into the top 30. 

When tour events re-started last August, Musetti was ranked 284th in the world.  But he made an indelible impression at his home country’s Masters event.  After coming through qualifying in Rome, he defeated both Stan Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori.  The very next week, also in Italy, he won his first Challenger title.  Lorenzo started off 2021 by reaching two more Challenger finals, and then made a thrilling run to the semifinals in Acapulco, with wins over Diego Schwartzman, Frances Tiafoe, and Grigor Dimitrov.  And just last week, he saved four match points to upset top-seeded Dan Evans in Cagliari.  He recently debuted inside the top 100, with a further rise seemingly inevitable.

Both men accumulated excellent records last season on clay: Karatsev was 17-2 at all levels, while Musetti went 20-6.  However, while Lorenzo has played 11 matches on this surface in 2021, this will be Aslan’s first clay match of the year.  And the slow, heavy conditions on Monday will not bolster the powerful groundstrokes of Karatsev.  At an event featuring nine Italians in the singles draw, Musetti should be favored to likely join several of his fellow countrymen in the second round.

Other Notable Matches on Monday:

Cristian Garin (16) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime – Felix shocked the tennis world last week by announcing the addition of Toni Nadal to his coaching team.  Garin loves playing on clay: all five of his ATP titles have come on this surface.  They have split two previous meetings, both in February of 2019 on clay in South America.

Fabio Fognini (15) vs. Miomir Kecmanovic – Fognini won the biggest title of his career two years ago on these grounds.  Kecmanovic was the champion of the clay event in Kitzbuhel seven months ago.  These two have never before played.

Hubert Hurkacz (13) vs. Thomas Fabbiano (Q) – This will be Hubi’s first match since winning the Miami Open eight days ago.  Fabbiano is one of four Italian men to qualify for this event, though he hasn’t won a tour level match since upsetting Dominic Thiem at the 2019 US Open. 

Monday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Stefanos Tsitsipas ‘Happy’ To Follow In Grandfather’s Footsteps At Olympics

The Greek speaks out about carrying his family’s legacy at the Games.

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Stefanos Tsitsipas never met his grandfather but the two of them do have something in common – they are both Olympians.

 

The world No.4 has already created history in Tokyo by winning his first round match against Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber on Sunday to become the first male player from his country to win a singles match since 1924. Greece has won two medals at the Games but both of them were during its inaugural edition back in 1896.

Tsitsipas’ debut in Tokyo enables him to continue his family legacy of playing in the sporting extravaganza. His grandfather was Sergei Salnikov who played football for the Soviet Union during the 1950s. In 1956 Salnikov was part of the team who won Olympic gold in Melbourne. After retiring from the sport, he went on to manage the FC Spartak Moscow and the Afghanistan national team before passing away in 1984 aged 58.

“I’ve never had the opportunity to meet him. But my mom told me stories of his career and how he got it…. He kind of inspires me in a way,” said Tsitsipas. “I know what kind of athlete he was, with all the achievements and all the trophies. I’m proud of him.
“It’s something good, a legacy that is being carried on in the family. I’m happy to be the next in the family to be competing at the Olympics.”

It isn’t just a medal in the singles Tsitsipas has his eyes on, he will also be bidding for success in the mixed doubles alongside Maria Sakkari. The two previously paired up at the 2019 Hopman Cup where they finished second in their group.

“We have already played once (together), and we had great success,” Sakkari told reporters on Monday. “We know each other really well, and we are much better players two-and-a-half years later, and we are both really pumped to play together. Of course, I cannot predict that we will get a medal. We will try our best and I think we give ourselves the best chance we can.”

Tsitsipas will return to action tomorrow in the men’s singles where he will play Frances Tiafoe in the second round.

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Carlos Alcaraz reaches his first ATP Tour final in Umag

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Spanish Next Gen star Carlos Alcaraz secured a spot in his first ATP tour-level final with a 6-2 7-6 (7-3) at the Plava Laguna Croatia Open in Umag. 

 

Alcaraz has become the youngest ATP Tour finalist since 18-year-old Kei Nishikori won the Delray Beach title in 2008. 

Alcaraz broke twice to open up a 4-0 lead and held his next service games to close out the first set 6-2. 

Ramos Vinolas came back from a break down three times in the second set, when Alcaraz served for the match. Alcaraz battled through the second-set tie-break to clinch the win after two hours. 

Alcaraz set up a final against Richard Gasquet, who battled past German qualifier Daniel Altmeier 7-6 (7-2) 3-6 6-3 after three hours and 11 minutes. 

Gasquet has become the second oldest finalist in tournament history. The 35-year-old saved seven of hi sten break points, but he converted just just 3 of his 17 break points.  

Gasquet rallied from a break down twice to draw level to 4-4 before winning the tie-break 7-2. Altmeier converted his third break point in the eighth game to win the second set 6-3. Altmeier saved three break points in the second game, before Gasquet converted his second break point in the sixth game to win the second set 6-3. 

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Novak Djokovic Cruises Past Dellien In Olympics Opener

Novak Djokovic’s bid for a historic golden slam continued in Tokyo.

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Novak Djokovic (@ITFTennis - Twitter)

Novak Djokovic cruised past Hugo Dellien 6-2 6-2 to open his bid for a gold medal at the Olympics.

 

The world number one’s bid to achieve the golden slam is on after thrashing the Bolivian in humid conditions.

A perfect start for the Serbian who is looking to achieve the one thing he is yet to achieve and that’s win a gold medal.

Next for Djokovic will be Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff.

In 32C temperatures, Djokovic was looking to start his campaign off against Bolivian veteran Hugo Dellien.

The slow paced courts would suit Dellien as he engaged in some long rallies with the world number one early on.

Despite creating three break points in the fourth game, Djokovic would fail to break early on.

However Djokovic increased his level mixing up the pace and depth of his shots to create angles for simple winners.

On his fifth break point Djokovic would break for a 4-2 lead and the top seed would break for a second time as Dellien had no answers for the Serb’s defensive skills. First set to Djokovic in 33 minutes.

A similar pattern evolved in the second set only this time Djokovic did get a break in the fourth game, breaking to love.

Accurate serving and construction of points gave Djokovic an easy first round match as another break secured the match and sealed his spot into the second round.

A fine performance in tough conditions gave Djokovic’s bid for history the best possible start.

Next for Djokovic will be Jan-Lennard Struff who beat Thiago Monteiro 6-3 6-4.

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