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By Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Sunday, April 14, 2024


Stefanos Tsitsipas saved all eight break points he faced sweeping Casper Ruud 6-1, 6-4 to win his third Monte-Carlo Masters crown in the last four years.

Photo credit: Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters

Greek flags were flying and Stefanos Tsitsipas was soaring.

Fans waving mini Greek flags chanted “Tsitsipas! Tsitsipas!”

More: Tsitsipas Stuns Sinner

Hearing the roars, Tsitsipas streaked through seven straight games dismantling Casper Ruud 6-1, 6-4 to capture his third Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters championship in the last four years.

On championship point, Tsitsipas slashed a clean forehand winner down the line then crashed to the court like a man backstroking in a maroon mist.

A dominant final completes a stirring Tsitsipas title run that comes 43 years after his mom, former WTA pro Julia Salnikova, won a 1981 junior title at the Monte-Carlo Country Club.

"Years ago, if you would have told me it would have been three, I would not have believed you," Tsitsipas told the crowd. "It's truly unbelievable."

It’s revival and redemption for Tsitsipas, who had fallen out of the Top 10 this season, but showed guts saving all eight break points he faced collecting his 11th career title and first since 2023 Los Cabos.

A stylish Tsitsipas won 21 of 29 net points, challenged Ruud’s twisting topspin forehand and beat the former world No. 2 in crucial forehand exchanges.

"It hasn't been the best of times in terms of where I wanted to be, so getting back here and winning the title is something that I was definitely not aiming for and it came naturally," said Tsitsipas, who has won three of his 11 titles in Monte-Carlo, where he now lives. "Winning this tournament three times is something I would have never imagined. Even when I first got it the first time, I obviously thought it was a great feeling and that place is special towards me.

"But getting the Holy Trinity, as I call it, is something that I will fully cherish it and take the most out of this moment."

Tsitsipas scored a pair of Top 5 victories this week and he will rise to No. 7 when the new ATP rankings are released on Monday.

Former world No. 3 Tsitsipas scored his third Top 10 win of the tournament—following victories over fifth-ranked Alexander Zverev and world No. 2 Jannik Sinner—to complete the rare Monte-Carlo triple crown.

Three years ago, Tsitsipas swept Andrey Rublev 6-3, 6-3, in the Monte-Carlo final making history as the first Greek man to capture a Masters 1000 championship.

Today, the 12th-ranked Greek joins Rafael Nadal (11), Bjorn Borg (3), Thomas Muster (3) and Ilie Nastase (3) as the fifth man to capture three or more Monte-Carlo crowns in the Open Era.

This final pitted two 25-year-old French Open finalists with the most clay-court wins since the start of 2020 season, but their red routes diverged dramatically over the first 35 minutes today.

Inspired and tenacious in his three-set upset of world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in yesterday’s semifinals, Ruud looked unsettled and ornery at the outset today. The former French Open and US Open finalist couldn't consistently find his finishing forehand and sometimes spent time hittting shadow swings between points.

"It was not the best start unfortunately. Obviously I was broken early," Ruud told the media in Monte-Carlo. "I had a few chances to break back. I didn't get it. Was always kind of playing defensively, coming on the back foot, coming from behind.

"Yeah, didn't really get the game going unfortunately. Stef played well. He played aggressive, fantastic with the forehand, and playing also really well with the backhand today I think. So I didn't really find any holes in his game. Yeah, I didn't play good enough. Simple as that."

A fast start can be imperative in a Masters final.

Off the mark quickly, Tsitsipas earned triple break point in the third game. Though Ruud saved the first two, Tsitsipas spun a short angled forehand winner to break for a 2-1 lead just 10 minutes into the match.

On a sun-splashed afternoon, Prince Albert II of Monaco, ATP chief Andrea Gaudenzi and Hall of Famer Boris Becker were among the dignitaries in a packed crowd that saw Ruud push back, earning three break points in the fourth game.

The Greek saved the second with a smash and third with a strong serve to Ruud’s weaker backhand wing. Slamming a forehand down the line helped Tsitsipas solve stress and stand firm for 3-1.

Perhaps lingering hangover from missed opportunity was still haunting Ruud, who missed his signature short—the diagonal forehand—on a routine mid-court ball to face break point. A jittery Ruud slapped a forehand into net, ceding the second straight break and a 4-1 lead.

A day after Ruud raced out to a 4-1 lead over world No. 1 Novak Djokovic en route to a historic 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 upset of the Grand Slam king, he found himself playing catch-up.

Beaten by the Tsitsipas forehand in some key exchanges, Ruud tried to force the issue moving forward. The Norwegian missed a volley then scattered a diagonal forehand—his 11th unforced error of the set—to face a second set point.

Yesterday, Ruud prayed for Djokovic to double fault on match point and his prayer was answered.

Today, Ruud double-faulted away his third consecutive break and the 36-minute opening set.

The 2022 Miami Open finalist doubled Tsitsipas’ unforced error output in the opening set.

Tsitsipas denied a fourth break point holding to start the second set with his seventh straight game.

A shell-shocked Ruud stopped his seven-game slide stamping a love hold—his first game since holding to start the match.

On this day, Tsitsipas showed greater depth to his game, particularly when it came to finishing forward.

The 12th-seeded Greek dug out a delicately brilliant backhand volley and deployed the serve and volley again holding for a 3-2 second-set lead.

In the ensuing game, Ruud conjured a magical half-volley winner of his own erasing break point then forcing the error to level after six games.

Racing up to retrieve a drop shot, Ruud, spun and sped back to the baseline pulling off a stupendous tweener lob. Tsitsipas was in position for a routine smash but bungled it wide to face a third break point in the seventh game. The Greek saved it with the serve-and-volley.

In a gritty 15-minute game, Tsitsipas repelled three break points holding for 4-3.

By then, Tsitsipas had saved all eight break points he faced.

"When I played Stef in the past, I think the guy who is able to play most aggressive and best with the forehand typically wins the match." Ruud said. "I think we both prefer our forehand sides over the backhands. But today he played also, like I said, heavy, good from his backhand side. It wasn't like I found any big holes.

"I was a little tentative sometimes with the forehand in the beginning, so I missed a few in the net. I was thinking, okay, play loose, go for it, at least go for the winner. Then when I did, I felt like it was going too much out. I didn't really find a good balance today.

"I had one breakpoint there where I went first one inside out and then I had a forehand to go inside in and I missed it long. So of course it's annoying."

Withstanding that turbulence, Tsitsipas stuck the landing firing one final forehand winner ending a 96-minute triumph, then falling flat on his back in a red clay bath of joy.

Former French Open finalist Tsitsipas said beating world No. 2 Sinner and Ruud back-to-back gives him confidence as he pursues major and medal aims at Roland Garros and the Olympics.

"I had an opponent in the semifinal that is a world-class tennis player right now who refused to lose to anyone, and he's been on a very good streak," Tsitsipas told the media in Monte-Carlo. "So overcoming that obstacle, it's definitely a sign that my tennis is progressing and I'm able to push those players.

"Topping it off, the win today with prevailing and coming victorious towards the end against Casper, who is a very good clay court player, he has shown that by playing multiple Roland Garros finals, it's definitely a sign that I'm there and the consistency's showing, and definitely I'm capable of big things."


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