Monte-Carlo Masters Saturday Preview: Who Will Play for their First Masters 1000 Title on Sunday? - UBITENNIS
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Monte-Carlo Masters Saturday Preview: Who Will Play for their First Masters 1000 Title on Sunday?

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Andrey Rublev on Friday in Monte-Carlo (montecarlotennismasters.com)

With the shocking upsets of Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, we are guaranteed to crown a new Masters champion for the second consecutive time this season.  Either Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrey Rublev, Casper Ruud, or Dan Evans will join Hubert Kurkacz as a newly-minted Masters 1000 titleholder in 2021.  Evans is also still alive in the doubles draw, where he and fellow Brit Neal Skupski are semifinalists alongside three of the top four seeds.

 

Saturday’s play will begin at 11:30am local time with the first doubles semifinal.

Stefanos Tsitsipas (4) vs. Dan Evans

What a surprising story Evans has been this week.  He arrived in Monte-Carlo with only four career wins on clay, but has doubled that number over the past five days.  After surviving a grueling, rain-delayed affair in the opening round against 2019 runner-up Dusan Lajovic, he’s defeated three seeded players: Hubert Hurkacz, David Goffin, and world No.1 Novak Djokovic.  The 30-year-old picked up his first career ATP title this past February, and now looks to reach his first Masters 1000 final.  Prior to this tournament, he had never advanced beyond the second round of a Masters event on any surface.

Tsitsipas now finds himself as the top seed remaining, and a considerable favorite to reach the final.  This is relatively new territory for the 22-year-old, who did not respond well to similar expectations two weeks ago in Miami, where he lost in the quarterfinals to eventual champion Hubert Hurkacz.  But he’s advanced extremely comfortably this week, having yet to drop a set.  And he’ll certainly be the fresher player on this day.  Tsitsipas received a retirement after one set of quarterfinal play yesterday, and has spent roughly half the amount of time on court as Evans.  The British No.1 played for nearly three hours on Friday alone.  Also, their head-to-head has been completely one-sided, with Tsitsipas claiming both of their 2020 meetings in straight sets.  Last September in Hamburg, Stefanos required only 59 minutes to defeat Evans.  So this should be a straightforward victory for Tsitsipas, as long as he doesn’t allow the pressure of being the favorite to overwhelm him.

Andrey Rublev (6) vs. Casper Ruud

Rublev’s win yesterday over his idol, Rafael Nadal, was a career highlight for the 23-year-old.  Rafa played some terrible tennis for the first half of the match, yet was twice able to avoid going down a double break in the second set to force a third.  But Andrey’s ability to bounce back from the disappointment of dropping the second set was most impressive, as he soundly put Nadal away in the third, becoming the first man to ever win a third set over Rafa in Monte-Carlo.  Now just 24 hours later, Rublev’s rebounding skills will again be tested.  How will he respond after defeating the King of Clay, as he tries to reach his first Masters 1000 final?  Two weeks ago in Miami, he stalled at the semifinal stage, as just like Tsitsipas, he was upset by Hurkacz.

22-year-old Casper Ruud is now into his second consecutive Masters semifinal on clay.  In fact, all 10 of his wins at this level have come on this surface.  Ruud has excelled on the red dirt since the start of 2020.  He’s gone 22-7, and reached the semifinals or better at five clay court events.  Casper saved two match points to survive on Thursday against Pablo Carreno Busta, and upset defending champion Fabio Fognini on Friday.  But Ruud is 0-3 against Rublev, which includes two encounters on clay.  And while Andrey is yet to establish himself at the Masters level, he’s won five 500-level titles, and reached four quarterfinals at Majors.  Much like the day’s first singles semifinal, the seeded player is the clear favorite.  But this event has seen some strange results of late, and Rublev cannot afford an emotional hangover from his monumental win on Friday.

Other Notable Matches on Saturday:

Mate Pavic and Nikola Mektic (2) vs. Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos (4) – Pavic and Mektic are already vying for their fifth title of the season, and lead the tour with 27 match wins.  Granollers and Zeballos were just 3-3 on the year coming into this event.

Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah (1) vs. Dan Evans and Neil Skupski – Cabal and Farah won two Majors in 2019, and were champions in Dubai last month.  Evans and Skupski were finalists two weeks ago in Miami, which was their first tournament as a team.  This will be Dan’s second match of the day, and his ninth in six days.

Saturday’s full Order of Play is here.

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French Open Chief: Roger Federer Would have Won Multiple French Open Titles If It Wasn’t For Nadal

Guy Forget also predicts how far the 39-year-old could go in the draw this year.

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The decision by Roger Federer to play at the French Open is the most logical step ahead of Wimbledon, according to tournament director Guy Forget.

 

The 20-time Grand Slam champion hasn’t played a competitive match on the surface since June 2019. Last year he missed most the season due to a right knee injury which required two surgical procedures, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic. So far this year he has only played in one tournament which was at the Qatar Open where he reached the semi-finals.

Federer will return to the court next week at the Geneva Open in his native Switzerland. It is the only event he will play before heading to Roland Garros. An event he had only played in once out of the past five editions. Forget, who is a former top 10 player himself, believes the match play is exactly what Federer needs.

“That Roger comes to play Roland Garros seems logical to me. This will allow him to play, and especially to test himself. Clay is a surface that requires you to be precise in your movements. The better Federer is at Roland Garros, the better he will be at Wimbledon,” he told reporters earlier this week.

The Swiss Maestro has only won the French Open once in his career which was back in 2009. Although he has reached the final on four other occasions. It was at the 1999 French Open where he made his main draw debut in a major at the age of 17. Overall, 11 out of Federer’s 103 ATP titles have been won on the clay.

However, Forget believes Federer would have won many more French Open titles if it wasn’t for the formidable Rafael Nadal. A player who has won more ATP trophies on the dirt than any other player in history, including 13 at the French Open alone.

“If Rafael Nadal hadn’t existed Federer would have had at least 5 or 6 titles at Roland, I’m sure of that.” Forget commented.
“Regarding this edition, I think it can happen that he could go into the second week.” He added.

Federer has lost to Nadal in all six of their meetings at the French Open – four times in the final and twice in the semi-finals. He trails their overall head-to-head 16-24.

The French Open will get underway on May 30th.

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Nadal survives three-set marathon with Shapovalov in Rome

Rafael Nadal saved match points to edge out Denis Shapovalov in Rome.

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Rafael Nadal (@atptour - Twitter)

The King of Clay needed three sets and over three hours to claim the win and avoid an upset.

 

Rafael Nadal needed three hours and 27 minutes to beat the Canadian Denis Shapovalov 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 at the Italian Open in Rome hitting 29 winners while his counterpart hit 46 unforced errors in the loss.

To everyone’s surprise it was the world number 14 who came out with the faster start earning two breakpoints in the first service game of the match with a stunning forehand winner.

He would break to take an early 1-0 lead and continued to have momentum earning another break and the Spaniard found himself staring at 3-0 defecit.

At 4-1 the world number three would get one of the breaks back but it wasn’t enough as the Toronto native would break one more time at 5-3 on his fourth breakpoint of the game to take the first set.

Once again we saw some really strong play from the Canadian in the beginning of the second set we saw history repeat itself when the world number 14 held serve and get the early break this time with his powerful forehand.

Nadal was fighting to stay in the set and the match and managed to earn a breakpoint but it was quickly saved with a big ace from Shapovalov. The very next game the Canadian had a chance to get another break but this time the Spaniard would deny him the opportunity.

After the world number three held serve he went on the attack looking to go back on serve and after three chances would get the break back. He would end up winning five games in a row and would take the second set to send it to a decider.

The third set remained on serve until 2-1 when the Canadian had a chance to break and he would take to jump out to a 3-1 lead. The break didn’t hold as Nadal came storming back the very next game breaking the world number 14 to love and equaling the set at 3-3.

The set and the match would ultimately be decided by a tiebreaker and in that breaker is when the Spaniard would take over winning it 7-3 to book his spot in the quarterfinals.

He will next face either Alexander Zverev or Kei Nishikori on Friday for a spot in the semifinals.

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Novak Djokovic Moving Into A ‘Good Trajectory’ After Reaching Rome Quarter-Finals

Novak Djokovic admitted that he is on a good trajectory after reaching the last eight in Rome.

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Novak Djokovic (@atptour - Twitter)

Novak Djokovic has said that he is on a ‘good trajectory’ after moving into the Rome Quarter-Finals.

 

The world number one moved into the last eight in the Italian capital with a comfortable 6-2 6-1 victory over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

Despite being broken in the first game, Djokovic rallied back to break on five occasions as he cruised past the Erratic Spaniard.

After 1 hour and 11 minutes, Djokovic’s overall game was too much for Davidovich Fokina as the Serb progressed to his 15th quarter-final in Rome.

After the match in his on-court interview the top seed admitted he is on a good trajectory as he builds momentum towards Roland Garros, “I thought I played well,” Djokovic told the ATP website.

“He started well and broke my serve in the first game. I made some errors, but I managed to break back right away and establish the control and consistency on the court. I think from the back of the court I was just a bit more solid than him.

“He made some unforced errors and double faults in key moments, which obviously helped me get that necessary break forward. I thought I played better, at least 20 or 30 per cent better, than I did against Fritz a few days ago. I am on a good trajectory and hopefully tomorrow will be even better.”

The real test for Djokovic will come tomorrow when he faces top 10 opposition in the last eight.

It will either be Monte-Carlo champion Stefanos Tsitsipas or Madrid finalist and home favourite Matteo Berrettini next up for the world number one.

Djokovic was well aware of the form either of his possible opponents are in heading into tomorrow’s showdown, “My next match will be against a Top 10 player, so it is going to be a battle,” Djokovic explained.

“Both of these guys are in great form. Tsitsipas won Monte-Carlo and Berrettini is just coming off the final in Madrid. I am obviously going to do my best to win that match, whoever I play against.”

In the other result in Rome today, Reilly Opelka reached the quarter-finals with a 7-6(6) 6-4 win over Aslan Karatsev.

The American hit 18 aces as he will now face Felix Auger-Aliassime or Federico Delbonis on Friday.

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