Tsitsipas, Rublev Chase Masters 1000 Glory
For the second straight ATP Masters 1000 event, a new champion will be lifting his first trophy at this level as Stefanos Tsitsipas takes on Andrey Rublev for the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters title.
There will be more than just Monte-Carlo glory on the line for Tsitsipas and Rublev. The winner lead the FedEx Race To Turin leaderboard for a place at the Nitto ATP Finals on Monday. Rublev has already overtaken current leader Novak Djokovic with his performance this week, though Tsitsipas could still rise to the top spot with a victory in the clay-court final.
After letting a big chance slip away at the Miami Open presented by Itau, the first ATP Masters 1000 event without Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic in 17 years, both players arrived in the Principality eager for redemption. Tsitsipas and Rublev made strong showings in Miami, but were beaten by eventual champion Hubert Hurkacz in the quarter-finals and semi-finals, respectively.
Sixth seed Rublev revealed that the key to bouncing back and reaching his first Masters 1000 final this week has been to keep a tight lid on his emotions – a lesson he learned the hard way in South Florida.
“That’s why I lost [in Miami], because of my emotions,” Rublev said after his semi-final victory. “In the end if you want to learn, you will improve this. I hope I want to learn and I want to improve. That’s why I’m doing better. Of course, it’s not easy. [In] some matches [there] will still be up and downs.”
The Russian claimed his first victory over Nadal (1-2) on the Spaniard’s favourite surface and after weathering a second-set comeback to triumph 6-4, 2-6, 6-2. It felt like a coming-of-age moment for the 23-year-old, who has an ATP Tour-best 24-4 match record in 2021. The tennis world seemed to be waiting for Rublev to find a way to translate his electrifying performances at ATP 500-level to the big stages at Masters 1000 events, and he did so against arguably the toughest opponent possible with a defeat of the 11-time former champion.
But he passed another big test in the next round, staying calm in order to back up the win against unseeded Casper Ruud 6-3, 7-5 and reach the championship match.
“This week looks like I’m really controlling my emotions [very well]. That’s why I’m doing well,” Rublev explained. “That’s why I won the match with Robert when I was losing. That’s why I won the match against Rafa when he came back in [the] second set. Even today [in] the second set, I come back because I didn’t go crazy. I just keep focused. I keep staying in the match. It turned around.”
Rublev will take on two-time Masters 1000 finalist Tsitsipas for the second time in 2021 when they hit Court Rainier III on Sunday. The pair has already met six times in their ATP Head2Head series (3-3), including three matches last year and also at last month’s ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam.
The Greek player has been in world-beating form this week in Monte-Carlo, where he also lives and trains. Tsitsipas hasn’t dropped a set all week, grounding Dubai champion Aslan Karatsev in his opening match, and cruising against Cristian Garin and breakout semi-finalist Daniel Evans. He also beat Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (7-5, ret.) along the way.
“I’m feeling good. I’m feeling energised. 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 I would say a big plus. I am happy to be able to play that way, just take it match by match, approach each individual match with the same intensity and energy. That has obviously contributed to that, to be able to finish the matches in two sets, not go to three-setters.”
Five-time ATP Tour titlist Tsitsipas is looking to lift his biggest trophy in Monte-Carlo after his 2019 Nitto ATP Finals triumph at the O2 in London. A victory would also be his first championship at an ATP 500, ATP Masters 1000 or Grand Slam tournament. By contrast, his opponent Rublev has swept 23 matches and four titles in a row at ATP 500 events from 2020-21.
It took a member of the Big Three to stop Tsitsipas in his previous Masters 1000 finals at the 2018 National Bank Open Presented by Rogers in Toronto (l. Nadal) and at the 2019 Mutua Madrid Open (l. Djokovic). Gearing up for his clash with Rublev, a first-time finalist at this level, Tsitsipas assured the press that he is not feeling any added pressure to get the job done.
“It’s not so much about that. It’s more how much I really want it,” Tsitsipas said. “That doesn’t necessarily add pressure to me. It’s just pure determination, willingness to go over the top to get what I want. I don’t like to think as it of pressure. I wouldn’t call it that way.”
In the first match on Court Rainier III, Evans will hope to complete his dream week in Monte-Carlo with the ultimate prize as he partners with countryman Neal Skupski in the championship doubles clash. The pair have reached back-to-back Masters 1000 finals in Miami and Monte-Carlo, the first two tournaments of their new partnership. The Brits will have a chance to avenge their South Florida defeat on Sunday as they’ve booked a rematch with second seeds Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic.
SCHEDULE – SUNDAY, APRIL 18, 2021
COURT RAINIER III start 12:00 noon
D. Evans (GBR) / N. Skupski (GBR) vs  N. Mektic (CRO) / M. Pavic (CRO)
Not Before 2:30 pm
 S. Tsitsipas (GRE) vs  A. Rublev (RUS)