Stefanos Tsitsipas successfully defends title in Monte Carlo

Stefanos Tsitsipas
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MONACO — Stefanos Tsitsipas appeared happy to hear fans “yelling and chanting” again at the Monte Carlo Masters as he beat unseeded Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-3, 7-6 (3) to retain his title.

“It’s a great feeling because we had the crowd this year,” the third-seeded Greek said after winning the first big final of the clay-court season. “It was a bit more lively than last year.”

The coronavirus meant the 2020 edition was canceled and the 2021 tournament held without fans. So Tsitsipas felt the intensity more on his way to an eighth career title.

“It’s much more nerve-racking to have people involved, you have the fans yelling and chanting, but it was a great way to top it off with lots of fighting in the end,” Tsitsipas said. “He fought in moments I did not expect him to fight.”

Davidovich Fokina, the Spaniard who knocked out Novak Djokovic in the second round, was playing his first ATP final.

Tsitsipas, who lost last year’s French Open final in five sets to Djokovic after leading 2-0, became the first repeat champion at the Monte Carlo Masters since Rafael Nadal in 2018.

Tsitsipas won the first set despite conceding an early break. Davidovic Fokina overcame an early break in the second and broke twice. Tsitsipas squandered a chance to serve out the match at 5-4 but still wrapped up the final in 1 hour, 36 minutes.

“I am very proud of myself,” Tsitsipas said. “Things weren’t going well at one point, but I managed to stay composed.”

The 23-year-old Tsitsipas reached the semifinals of the Australian Open in January.

The identity of his opponent in Sunday’s final surprised many.

“I must confess that he was not the Spaniard I was expecting in the final,” said Zeljko Franulovic, the tournament’s director, with 11-time winner Rafael Nadal not playing in Monte Carlo because of a rib injury.

As well as knocking out Djokovic, Davidovich Fokina also beat Indian Wells champion Taylor Fritz in the quarterfinals and Grigor Dimitrov in the semifinals.

“It was an amazing experience,” the 22-year-old Spaniard said about the tournament.

Davidovich Fokina said it had increased his confidence for the rest of the season.

“I will be focused on every point, every game,” Davidovich Fokina said.

Alycia Parks reaches 1st WTA quarterfinal in Ostrava

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OSTRAVA, Czech Republic — American qualifier Alycia Parks is having quite the breakthrough tournament in Ostrava.

The 21-year-old Parks earned her first win against a top-10 ranked opponent by beating fourth-seeded Maria Sakkari 5-7, 7-5, 7-5 at the Agel Open on Thursday to reach her first WTA Tour quarterfinal.

The 144th-ranked Parks ousted former No. 1 Karolina Pliskova in the opening round – her first win against a top-20 opponent – and showed off her power by hitting 59 winners against Sakkari, compared to just nine for her opponent.

“I came out here not expecting anything, just playing my game, and it got me through the match,” Parks said.

Parks will next face former French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova, who advanced via walkover when Belinda Bencic withdrew with a left foot injury.

Caty McNally, another American qualifier who is playing doubles with Parks in Ostrava, also reached the last eight by beating wild-card entry Karolina Muchova 6-1, 3-6, 6-1. McNally is also into her first WTA quarterfinal and will face top-ranked Iga Swiatek, who advanced Wednesday.

Djokovic beats Van de Zandschulp to reach Astana quarters

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ASTANA, Kazakhstan — Add Botic van de Zandschulp to the long list of players to have been schooled by Novak Djokovic.

Djokovic eased past Van de Zandschulp 6-3, 6-1 on Thursday in his first career meeting with the 27-year-old Dutchman to reach the quarterfinals of the Astana Open.

Van de Zandschulp earned one break point in each set but couldn’t seriously threaten Djokovic, who is looking for a second straight indoor hardcourt title after winning in Tel Aviv last week.

“(In the) second set I think I started to read his serve better and just started swinging through the court more,” Djokovic said. “Botic is a quality tennis player. When he has time, he can hurt you, so I tried to take away that time from him and I’m very pleased with the way I played, particularly in the second.”

Djokovic will next face Karen Khachanov, who rallied to beat Marin Cilic 2-6, 6-3, 6-3. If the 21-time Grand Slam champion gets past that one, he could come up against fellow former No. 1 Daniil Medvedev. The second-seeded Russian beat Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland 6-3, 6-2 to move one match away from a potential rematch of last year’s U.S. Open final, when Medvedev beat Djokovic to deny his attempt at a calendar-year Grand Slam.

Medvedev will first have to beat Roberto Bautista Agut, who advanced Wednesday.