Monte-Carlo Masters Sunday Preview: Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev Battle for their First Masters Title - UBITENNIS
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Monte-Carlo Masters Sunday Preview: Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev Battle for their First Masters Title

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Stefanos Tsitsipas on Saturday in Monte-Carlo (montecarlotennismasters.com)

The winner of Sunday’s singles championship will also hold the No.1 ranking in the 2021 ATP Race to Turin.

 

Since the start of 2020, no one has won more matches than Andrey Rublev.  The 23-year-old is now 65-14 over the past 16 months, with six titles (seven if you include the ATP Cup, a team event).  He has been racking up 250 and 500-level trophies.  But perhaps his biggest win yet came on Friday, as he earned his first victory over his idol, Rafael Nadal.  Rublev has now reached his first Masters 1000 final, and he’s been simply stellar on recent championship Sundays.  Andrey has won his last seven finals, and has dropped only one set in those matches.  That one set was dropped to his opponent today, in a heartbreaking loss for Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Last September in Hamburg, Tsitsipas unsuccessfully served for the title at 5-3 in the third.  That came just a few weeks after another devastating defeat for the Greek.  At the US Open, he was up two-sets-to-one and two breaks against Borna Coric, but Tsitsipas would fail to convert six match points, succumbing to defeat in a fifth set tiebreak after nearly five hours.  Just two days after the loss in Hamburg, Stefanos found himself down two-sets-to-love in the first round of Roland Garros.  However, the 22-year-old survived on that day, and went on to reach the semifinals, avenging his loss to Rublev along the way.  Stefanos would equal that result at this year’s Australian Open, and has now advanced to his third Masters 1000 final.

Sunday’s play will begin at 12:00pm local time with the doubles championship, followed by the singles final not before 2:30pm.  However, there is a chance of rain throughout the afternoon in Monte-Carlo.

Stefanos Tsitsipas (4) vs. Andrey Rublev (6)

They have split six previous tour-level meetings, and also split their two clay court encounters.  Four of those six matches occurred since September of last year, and they’ve split those as well.  Their recent history starts with the aforementioned Hamburg final, which Rublev claimed 7-5 in the third.  Less than two weeks later, Tsitsipas avenged that loss in the Roland Garros quarterfinals, defeating Rublev in straight sets.  In the round robin stage of the ATP Finals, Tsitsipas again prevailed, this time in a third set tiebreak.  And just last month in Rotterdam, Rublev was victorious in straights.  With each gaining recent wins on different surfaces, as well as both indoors and outdoors, their rivalry has been extremely even.

Tsitsipas has advanced much more easily this week, comfortably capturing all seven sets he’s played.  And he’s spent about three less hours on court than Rublev, who fought through three-setters against both Nadal and Roberto Bautista Agut.  But that also highlights the tougher road Rublev has faced, which included two top 10 players.  Tsitsipas is yet to face a player ranked inside the top 20.

In looking at their two recent clay court clashes, the player whose second serve percentage dropped below 50% lost the match.  In Hamburg, Tsitsipas was down at 40%, while in Paris, Rublev was down at 38%.  As Jim Courier highlighted on Tennis Channel, no top 50 player has a bigger discrepancy between their first and second serve speeds than Rublev.  It will be crucial for Andrey to hit a high percentage of first serves, and avoid striking passive second serves.

But in one of the biggest matches of their careers to date, the way they handle this moment may be the most important factor.  Stefanos certainly has the experience edge on bigger stages like this.  He’s reached three Major semifinals, two previous Masters finals, and was the 2019 ATP Finals champion.  While Rublev hasn’t attained any of those milestones yet, his dominance in recent 250 and 500-level finals may be a huge confidence boost on Sunday.  By contrast, Tsitsipas has struggled in championship matches.  He’s just 5-8 in his career, and has lost his last three, which includes the Hamburg loss at the hands of Rublev.  And most concerning is Stefanos’ dismal 1-8 record in finals played outdoors.  Based on those shortcomings, as well as Rublev’s wins over tough competition this week, I slightly favor the red-headed Russian to win his first Masters 1000 title.

Other Notable Matches on Sunday:

Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic (2) vs. Dan Evans and Neal Skupski – Mektic and Pavic are 28-3 on the year, and are already vying for their fifth title.  This is only Evans and Skupski’s second tournament as a team, and yet their second time making the final, as they did the same in Miami two weeks ago.  And this is also Evans’ 10th match of the week.

Sunday’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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