Tsitsipas Reigns Supreme After Defending Monte-Carlo Masters Title

Stefanos Tsitsipas (photo: Realis – S. Danna)

MONTE-CARLO/WASHINGTON, April 17, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Stefanos Tsitsipas went to his first Monte-Carlo Masters as a six-year-old kid and immediately fell in love with the red clay and the atmosphere surrounding Court Rainier III and the Monte-Carlo Country Club. Not in a million years, he recalled, did he think he would be in the position he’s in today. Seventeen years later, though, the Greek star won his second straight Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters Sunday. Dreams do come true.

Unlike last year, when the tournament was closed to spectators due to the coronavirus pandemic, this time there was an electric atmosphere and feeling surrounding Court Rainier III at the Monte-Carlo Country Club.

With his one-hour and 36-minute 6-3, 7-6 (3) victory over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain, the World No. 5 Tsitsipas has become the Master of Monaco. He reigns supreme. It was the second ATP Masters 1000 title and eighth title overall – including four on clay – for the 23-year-old native of Athens, who now maintains a residence in Monte Carlo.

“This has been an incredible event,” Tsitsipas, a veteran of 19 tour-level finals, said during the trophy ceremony. “I’ve had the chance to win it, of course last year without a crowd, and I can say about this one that I don’t I’ve experienced a more special event so far in my career. This place holds a special place in my heart.”

By the end of match, it became evident that both finalists had put in a lot of sacrifices and hard work – and held belief in their abilities. Davidovich Fokina made one last dive at a return that caked hit white Diadora kit in red clay. Upon securing match point, Tsitsipas fell to the ground on his back and absorbed some red clay of his own that covered the backside of his olive green and black Adidas outfit. It was that kind of memorable day that put a wrap on the opening final of the European clay season.

Following his victory in his fourth final at the Masters 1000 level, Tsitsipas said he’s “very proud” of himself, proud of the time and effort he and his team put forth to win Monte-Carlo for the second straight time.

“Things weren’t going well at one point but I managed to stay composed to finish the match off,” Tsitsipas said. “I am really proud with the belief I put in my game. Sometimes, you doubt yourself, but it is always important to keep your head high.”

The third-seeded Tsitsipas secured the opening set after breaking Davidovich Fokina’s serve in the eighth game. He recovered after he failed to serve out the match at 5-4 in the second set and went on to win by capturing the set in a tie-break, which preserved a straight-set victory. It enabled him to win his first trophy of the 2022 season following a semifinal run at the Australian Open and reaching the finals at Rotterdam, both on hard courts.

“He fought in moments I didn’t expect him to fight,” Tsitsipas admitted afterward during an on-court interview. “He can hit incredible winners out of nowhere and play unpredictably. But I was able to minimize that. I knew he would be a dangerous opponent but that is a great win for me. I think we will see great results from him in the future.”

Tsitsipas struck three aces and hit 17 winners to 18 unforced errors. He won 71 percent (32 of 45) of his first-serve points and broke Davidovich Fokina four times in six opportunities. He outpointed his opponent 72-57. The young Spaniard countered with 18 winners and made 29 unforced errors. He converted three of four break points against Tsitsipas.

Tsitsipas caps successful week in defending Monte-Carlo Masters title

By winning his second Monte-Carlo Masters title, it capped an outstanding week for Tsitsipas and it gave him his first ATP Tour title since he won in Lyon last May. En route, Tsitsipas turned back 2019 Monte-Carlo titlist Fabio Fognini, then beat unseeded Laslo Djere. He turned around his quarterfinal match against No. 12 seed Diego Schwartzman, rallying from 0-4 in the third set, then was solid in his semifinal win against No. 2 seed Alexander Zverev on Saturday.

Tsitsipas will leave Monte-Carlo having earned first-prize money of 836,335 euros and 1,000 ATP Rankings points, He will climb to No. 2 in the ATP Race To Turin tomorrow.

Meanwhile, despite the runner-up finish, the 46th-ranked Davidovich Fokina is projected to rise to a career-high No. 27. He began the week with a 4-9 win-loss record in tour-level events this year and strung together five straight wins, including upsets of World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the second round and No. 10 seed Taylor Fritz in the quarterfinals, to reach his first ATP Tour final and first Masters 1000 title match.

Davidovich Fokina, 22, said reaching the final of the Monte-Carlo Masters an “amazing experience.” During an on-court interview, he exclaimed: “I enjoyed every day, winning big [matches]. Beating Djokovic and players that are at the height of their careers. It was a tough week. A lot of emotions.

“This week with my team was amazing. [It] was a dream come true to play here in Monte Carlo [with] full crowds. To hear the people support was amazing. I was at the bench thinking, ‘Wow, what a moment’.”

Ram and Salisbury win first Masters 1000 clay title

Rajeev Ram of the United States and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain, now the No. 1-ranked doubles team, garnered their first ATP Masters 1000 doubles title on clay together Sunday. The No. 1 seeds won the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters with a 6-4, 3-6, 10-7 victory over No. 6 seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah, both of Colombia, in one hour and 38 minutes.

The win improved Ram and Salisbury’s win-loss record in tour-level title matches to 6-8, which includes victories at the 2020 Australian Open, 2021 National Bank Open Presented by Rogers and 2021 US Open. They now have a 5-1 record against the Colombians, head-to-head. Sunday’s title meeting was the first time the two teams had met this season and first on clay.

“It’s unbelievable, I’m so happy right now,” Salisbury said during an on-court interview. “It’s a first title on clay together, on a surface that we always thought was a weaker one for us. [We have] not done too well here before, but we’ve been working really hard, and we knew we could play well. [I am] just so happy that it’s come together and to get the win here.”

Last Monday, Salisbury reached No. 1 in the ATP Rankings for the first time. He and Ram have clicked so well by combining a strong service game with their solid play at the net. Against Cabal and Farah, they totaled three aces, won 68 percent (41 of 60) first-serve points, saved all three break points they faced and outpointed their opponents 62-61.

Ram added: “I got the best player in the world on my team, that helps. It’s our fourth year together, we have great chemistry, we work really well together on and off the court. I think it shows in matches like this, we can piece together a good effort and give ourselves acompetitive chance.”

Ram and Salisbury are seeded No. 1 at the upcoming ATP 500 Barcelona Open Blanc Sabadell on clay.

By the numbers

Stefanos Tsitsipas has become the sixth player to win back-to-back Monte-Carlo titles in the Open Era. He joins Ilie Nastase (1971-73), Bjorn Borg (1979-1980), Thomas Muster (1995-96), Juan Carlos Ferrero (2002-03), and Rafael Nadal (2005-12, 2016-18).

“Quotable …”

“I’m always trying to bring the best I can from clay and adjust accordingly to the other surfaces. I really want to be doing well on hard and grass this year, because I feel like I can really get a lot of points there. If I’m able to win matches with the same consistency I do on this surface, I think I have a big chance of finishing the year [in] the top two, which is a huge goal of mine to be finally there and belong in that special group of players.”

Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, 2022 Monte-Carlo Masters champion, reflecting on his Monte-Carlo triumph.