Tsitsipas and Rublev win to reach Monte Carlo Masters final

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MONACO — Fourth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas swatted aside unseeded Dan Evans 6-2, 6-1 on Saturday to reach the Monte Carlo Masters final for the first time and stay on course for a first title this year.

The big-serving Greek’s opponent will be sixth-seeded Russian Andrey Rublev, who beat unseeded Norwegian Casper Ruud 6-3, 7-5. Rublev aims for his second title of the year, his first at Masters level and ninth overall in his career.

They are level at 3-3 heading into their seventh meeting, including 1-1 on clay. Tsitsipas beat him in the quarterfinals at last year’s French Open, and is the fresher player for Sunday’s final.

“I’m feeling good. I’m feeling energized. I still have plenty of gas and energy left in me,” Tsitsipas said. “I was able to have all of my matches done in two sets, so that is a big plus. I’m really focused for tomorrow.”

Evans beat top-ranked Novak Djokovic in the third round. But he failed to threaten Tsitsipas in the same way and the match quickly slid away when he was serving at 3-2 down.

Tsitsipas broke his serve five times and remains on track for a sixth career title.

“I am pleased with the performance. It was really difficult to maintain my level of consistency and I am really happy I managed to deal with all the different moments,” Tsitsipas said. “I had a lot of opportunities to hit the forehand, and think how I wanted to construct the point.”

He won his last title in February last year at the Open 13 indoor tournament in Marseille – just weeks before France went into lockdown for the first time because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Monte Carlo was canceled last year because of the pandemic.

The 23-year-old Rublev produced an audacious display to defeat record 11-time champion Rafael Nadal on Friday, and further confirm why he is one of the rising stars of tennis.

After winning the ATP Cup with Russia, he reached the quarterfinals at the Australian Open and then won the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam last month for his fourth title in seven months. Since Rotterdam, he’s reached four consecutive semifinals, including Monte Carlo.

The 22-year-old Ruud, who has just one career title, also beat a former champion by knocking out 2019 winner Fabio Fognini.

But after breaking Rublev to love to lead 2-1 he then lost four straight games before finally holding in the eighth game to stop the Russian’s momentum.

Rublev clinched the set on serve and broke Ruud at the start of the second set to take control, improving to 4-0 against him in their career.

“He started with the break (of serve) and I felt like I needed to raise my level, raise my speed, hit harder,” Rublev said. “Otherwise I had no chance. I started to play better and he started to miss a bit more.”

Frances Tiafoe lifts Team World to 1st Laver Cup win

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LONDON — The last to arrive, befitting his reputation in the locker room, Frances Tiafoe strutted into the post-match news conference after clinching Team World’s Laver Cup victory over Roger Federer’s star-studded Team Europe and shouted, “Champs are here!”

Then the 24-year-old from Maryland joined his teammates at the table where the silver trophy was resting Sunday night, put down a bottle of water, pulled a Budweiser out of his red jacket and smiled that wide smile of his.

Performing with the same infectious showmanship and crunch-time success he displayed en route to his first Grand Slam semifinal at the U.S. Open earlier this month, Tiafoe staved off four match points and came back to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 1-6, 7-6 (11), 10-8, giving Team World its first triumph in five editions of an event founded by Federer’s management company.

“I don’t like losing,” said Federer, a 20-time major champion whose final match before retirement was a loss alongside Rafael Nadal in doubles against Tiafoe and Jack Sock on Friday night. “It’s not fun. It just leaves not the best taste.”

When Tsitsipas put a forehand into the net to end Sunday’s contest – and the three-day competition – Tiafoe dropped his racket and fell to his back on the court, where teammates piled atop him. After getting on his feet, Tiafoe cupped a hand to his ear, asking spectators for more noise, then pointed to his chest and yelled, “I’m him! I’m him!”

“When it becomes a circus out here, and I’m just using the crowd and acting like a little kid and having a bunch of reactions … I end up playing really well and I start building momentum off it,” Tiafoe said. “I’m able to play and function in that better than my opponents, it seems.”

Using the nickname other players gave Tiafoe to reflect the way he embraces big moments, Team World captain John McEnroe said: “Frances is `Prime Time.’ He loves this stuff.”

McEnroe had been 0-4 while leading his squad against his former playing rival, Team Europe captain Bjorn Borg; both indicated they would be back for the 2023 Laver Cup in Vancouver, but that might be their last go-round.

This one served as a celebration of Federer and the 41-year-old Swiss star’s career.

Tiafoe responded with a quip when asked whether he might owe Federer some form of “I’m sorry” for beating him in his finale or for defeating his team, which also included Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray for a total of 66 major singles titles. That, incidentally, is 66 more than Team World, a collection of 20-somethings (Sock turned 30 on Saturday).

“”I’m not going to apologize to him. He’s got a lot to apologize for after the last 24 years – after beating everybody on the tour,” said Tiafoe, who went 0-3 against Federer in singles head-to-head. “I will say thank you for having me in this amazing event, what he’s done for the game. He’s a class act. Happy to know him, happy to call him a friend, happy to call him a colleague, and best wishes in his second act. But I will not apologize.”

Team Europe entered Sunday at O2 Arena with an 8-4 lead; the first team to 13 points would win.

Each match on Day 3 was worth three points, and Team World went ahead thanks to a pair of victories by Felix Auger-Aliassime, a 22-year-old from Canada. He beat Djokovic 6-3, 7-6 (3), after partnering with Sock to edge Murray and Matteo Berrettini 2-6, 6-3, 10-8 in doubles.

Tiafoe then made it 13-8, but it wasn’t easy.

He went a tournament-record 8-0 in tiebreakers at Flushing Meadows this month and was just as resilient Sunday.

“It’s been a long time that Frances has been playing the big guys close and losing a lot of close battles. It’s great to see lately he’s been winning,” said Taylor Fritz, an American who is the same age as Tiafoe and has known him for years. “It’s about time that he steps up and the matches go the other way. Today was a joke.”

That’s because Tiafoe was a single point from losing to Tsitsipas four times in their second-set tiebreaker, but somehow got through that. Then, at 4-all in the concluding match tiebreaker – first to 10, win by two – Tiafoe sprinted from behind the baseline to near the net and barely got to a drop shot by Tsitsipas, somehow lunging to flick an angled winner.

While most of the 16,365 fans went wild, Tiafoe went around the net and stood still, hands on his hips, relishing the atmosphere.

“We put him in the slot that he was in today for a reason,” said Team World’s Tommy Paul, another 24-year-old American, “and he stepped up for us, big time.”

Sonego beats Bublik at Moselle Open to win 1st title of 2022

Winston-Salem Open - Day 5
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METZ, France – Lorenzo Sonego clinched his first title of the season by beating Alexander Bublik 7-6 (3), 6-2 in the Moselle Open final.

The 27-year-old Italian did not drop a set all tournament as he won the third title of his career and first on hard courts.

The unseeded Sonego recovered from 0-40 down in the fifth game of the match and secured victory when the seventh-seeded Bublik sent a backhand return long.

He then danced on court as he celebrated a perfect tournament where he also beat defending champion Hubert Hurkacz in the semifinals.

Sonego’s win will move him up 21 places in the ATP rankings and into 44th place.