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By Richard Pagliaro | Sunday, April 17, 2022

 
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Stefanos Tsitsipas rode a five-game surge stopping Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-3, 7-6(3) to successfully defend his Monte-Carlo crown.

Photo credit: Julian Finney/Getty

Stefanos Tsitsipas has felt the lingering sting when opportunity slips right through your grip.

Today, fighter to the finish Tsitsipas made the most of his second chance scoring a double knock down seal successful Monte-Carlo championship defense—and seize his first title of the season.

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On his second championship point, Tsitsipas played dynamic defense then drilled a backhand a diving Alejandro Davidovich Fokina stabbed wide. Tsitsipas celebrated his 6-3, 7-6(3) triumph taking the dirt dive lying on his back to soak in his eighth career ATP title.

It’s Tsitsipas’ 10th straight Monte-Carlo victory vaulting him into elite company. Tsitsipas joins Bjorn Borg, Ilie Nastase, Thomas Muster, Juan Carlos Ferrero and Rafael Nadal as the sixth man in Open Era history to successfully defend Monte-Carlo.




The 23-year-old Tsitsipas has won 19 of his last 20 sets in the Principality and two of the most important came on Friday night. Scraping himself up off the dirt, Tsitsipas battled back from a dire 0-4 deficit in the final set tearing through six straight games subduing Diego Schwartzman 6-2, 6-7(3), 6-4 in the quarterfinals. Tsitsipas tore up second-seeded Alexander Zverev 6-4, 6-2 in a commanding semifinal yesterday.

“I think it’s double more special,” Tsitsipas told Tennis Channel’s Prakash Amritraj afterward. “I lived it much more intense this year with the crowd, with the people, there was so much more presence.

“You just feel it much more when you’re able to close it out that way.”




Today, Tsitsipas faced the pressure of his first title defense and knowing he needed to re-establish himself as a closer. Remember, Tsitsipas failed to close a two-set lead over Novak Djokovic bowing in the Roland Garros final last June. Tsitsipas looked flat in his Rotterdam finals loss to Felix Auger-Aliassime in February then squandered leads in successive Masters 1000 defeats to Jenson Brooksby in Indian Wells and Carlos Alcaraz in Miami.

Tsitsipas was in no mood for moral victories using a five-game surge to take the first set and go up a break in the second.

Still, the 46th-ranked Davidovich Fokina showed feisty spirit breaking when Tsitsipas served for the title at 5-4 and eventually forcing a tiebreaker. That's when Tsitsipas applied his all-court skills to create final separation.

"Things didn’t go my way, but that didn’t stop me from trying to find different solutions and come up with new things," Tsitsipas said. "I kind of knew he was gonna loosen up on the last game and so he did. I felt like his shots started being more heavy I felt more rotation off his ball, much deeper good returns on my serve…

"I wanted to keep pushing and I knew the tiebreak was really the place to go all the way."

Unseeded Spaniard Davidovich Fokina, who broke nine times upsetting world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in round two, swept a backhand winner down the line holding in his opening service game.

A heavy Davidovich Fokina forehand earned him double break point in the third game. Showing savvy, the Spaniard slipped a drop-shot winner breaking with a clenched fist for 2-1.

Losing the plot on serve, Davidovich Fokina double faulted to face triple break point. Tsitsipas pounded a forehand pass down the line breaking back to level after four games.




Exceptional court coverage is a shared asset of the finalists. Both showed fast feet and improvisational skills in a pulsating all-court point escalating with Tsitsipas thumping a smash to seal his first love hold for 4-3.




Two forehand errors put Davidovich Fokina in a break-point bind in the eighth game. Winning a crosscourt battle of backhands, Tsitsipas elicited a fourth unforced error of the game breaking again for 5-3.

Thirty-one minutes into the match, Tsitsipas dotted the T with his second ace slamming shut the opening set on a three-game surge. Tsitsipas won three of the last six games at love.

The Spaniard’s slide deepened—and the unforced errors mounted—as he sprayed a forehand to gift the break to start the second set.

Tennis Express

Building a 30-love lead, Tsitsipas had won 18 of the last 20 points and kept rolling backing up the break with an emphatic hold for 2-0.

Seeing the Spaniard stumble through seven of the last eight games, fans began rhythmically clapping trying to rouse Davidovich Fokina. Drawing on that energy, Davidovich Fokina held to snap a five-game slide and get on the board in the second set.

Stepping closer to the line, Davidovich Fokina was driving the ball with more authority to the champion’s backhand wing. Banging out some errors, the Spaniard broke back waving his arms to the crowd exhorting fans to make more noise after leveling 2-2.

The finals debutant pressured the Greek’s serve to 30-all in the eighth game, but Tsitsipas answered with dynamic points snapping off a smash to even after eight games.

Comfort level at net distinguished the defending champion as Davidovich Fokina botched a smash in the ensuing game. The Davidovich Fokina forehand can be penetrating or erratic—sometimes during the same game—he slapped a forehand into net to face double break point.

Davidovich Fokina fended off both but bumped a mid-court backhand long for a third break point. The Tsitsipas running forehand is a wonder to watch when it’s clicking—he curled a crosscourt forehand with plenty of sidespin breaking for 5-4.


Serving for the championship, Tsitsipas was met by swarming returns from Davidovich Fokina, who was hurling his arms in the air urging fans to amp up the volume. The Spaniard swept a slick forehand drive volley breaking back with a bang as fans were chanting "Foki! Foki!".



The tiebreaker turned when Davidovich Fokina set himself up for misery with a heavy-handed drop that that Tsitsipas attacked eventually hitting a smash for 3-1. Tsitsipas scored a second straight mini-break for 4-1.

Forced to move forward for a short ball, Davidovich Fokina was like a flag flapping in the wind when Tsitsipas slashed a backhand pass that left the Spaniard tossing his racquet in vain at the blurring ball. That strike put Tsitsipas up 5-1.

On his second championship point, Tsitsipas did a little bit of everything before sliding a backhand pass that left Davidovich Fokina sprawling across the clay for the Greek dropped to the dirt in elation.


 

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