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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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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