Match Report

#NextGenATP Czech Mensik advances to first ATP Tour final in Doha

Khachanov sinks Popyrin
February 23, 2024
Jakub Mensik, 18, is the youngest tour-level finalist since Carlos Alcaraz in Umag in 2021. By ATP Staff

#NextGenATP Czech Jakub Mensik is an ATP Tour finalist.

The 18-year-old continued his breakthrough week at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open Friday when he downed Gael Monfils 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 to become the youngest finalist in tournament history.

"It is amazing. Hopefully not the last one [final]. Incredible week so far," Mensik said. "Today again with Gael, he played unbelivable. I know it is tough to play against him, especially with his good movement. For me every point I have to play my best game.

"I have to say this performance was one of the best in my entire life. I am so glad I reached this level in the semis, so hopefully tomorrow I play like this. An amazing feeling with my first ATP final. I am speechless."

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Mensik, who is playing in just his third tour-level event, defeated Andrey Rublev in the quarter-finals to earn his first Top 5 win and will debut in the Top 100 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings on Monday.

He produced another impressive performance against Monfils. He recovered from a dip in the second set, crushing the ball with clean timing off both wings in the third set to triumph after one hour and 48 minutes and become the youngest tour-level finalist since Carlos Alcaraz in Umag in 2021.

Mensik struck the ball well throughout against Monfils, who tried to use the drop shot to disrupt the Czech's rhythm. At 4-3 in the third-set, Mensik gained the decisive break when he nailed a backhand winner down the line on break point.

The 18-year-old, who saved 9/12 break points, then held serve to triumph. Following his win, Mensik let out a roar before he and Monfils shared a warm embrace at the net.

"I told him when I was young I watched him a lot on the TV," Mensik said about his conversation with Monfils. "One of the biggest showman on court. He is a great guy, so hopefully in the future we will meet once again. The rallies were so fun with him."

Mensik’s run in Doha has propelled him to first in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Jeddah. He will aim to extend his lead and lift his first tour-level trophy when he meets Karen Khachanov on Saturday.

Mensik’s previous tour-level results prior to this week were a third-round run at the 2023 US Open and a second-round appearance at the Australian Open in January. Earlier this week in Doha he also beat Alejandro Davidovich Fokina and former World No. 1 Andy Murray.

Mensik took advantage of a Next Gen Accelerator Programme wild card into the ATP 250 as part of new opportunities for players aged 20 and under.

Players inside the Top 350 receive up to eight ATP Challenger Tour 100 and 125 opportunities. But as a Top 250 player Mensik also receives one wild card into one ATP 250 main draw (and two ATP 250 qualifying events). He is making full use of his decision to use his main-draw wild card in Doha, which followed his semi-final run in the Bahrain Challenger last week.

Aged 37 years and five months, Monfils was the oldest semi-finalist in tournament history. The French wild card was seeking his fifth final in Doha, having won the ATP 250 event in 2018. He made his first appearance in Doha in 2005 when Mensik was not even born.

In earlier action, Khachanov overcame Alexei Popyrin 7-6(12), 6-2 to reach his eighth tour-level final.

The big-hitting second seed rallied from a break down in the first set and saved three set points in the tie-break before converting on his fifth opportunity to move ahead. He then saved all four break points he faced in the second set to advance after one hour and 48 minutes.

"It is really nice to play with a full crowd and energy," Khachanov said. "It was a very emotional and tight tie-break. He was up and then I was up. One point made the difference and I think winning the first set was crucial to winning the match."

Khachanov is chasing his sixth tour-level title this weekend, with all five of his previous triumphs coming on hard courts. The World No. 17 holds a 12-1 record against Australians in his past 13 matches and now leads Popyrin 3-1 in the pair's Lexus ATP Head2Head series.

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