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.
Stefanos Tsitsipas ‘Happy’ To Follow In Grandfather’s Footsteps At Olympics
The Greek speaks out about carrying his family’s legacy at the Games.
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.
Carlos Alcaraz reaches his first ATP Tour final in Umag
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.
Novak Djokovic Cruises Past Dellien In Olympics Opener
Novak Djokovic’s bid for a historic golden slam continued in Tokyo.
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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