Tsitsipas Beats Monfils To Crack Top 10 & Reach Dubai Final
Monfils' winning streak ends, but he returns to Top 20
Stefanos Tsitsipas will break into the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings for the first time on Monday after beating Gael Monfils in a thrilling three-hour encounter for a place in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships final.
Tsitsipas recovered from a set and 1-3 down in a high-quality 4-6, 7-6(4), 7-6(4) victory over in-form Monfils on Friday at the Aviation Club. The 20-year-old Greek is now eight matches unbeaten having captured his second ATP Tour crown on Sunday at the Open 13 Provence (d. Kukushkin).
The reigning Next Gen ATP Finals champion hit three double faults at 5-6 in the third set, but was supreme in the deciding tie-break. The Greek won 26 of 43 points at the net and hit 47 winners. Monfils, who had been riding an eight-match winning streak on the back of his eighth ATP Tour title at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam (d. Wawrinka), and Tsitsipas both won 133 points in their third FedEx ATP Head2Head encounter.
“The whole match changed out of nowhere,” said Tsitsipas. “I have improved since last year. Beating the big guys, big players, players that have been in the Top 10, means a lot to me. I wanted to get there at some point myself, and I made it today. I don't know, [it’s] probably a special day for Greece.”
At 0-3 in the first set, Monfils stepped up the power on return, fizzing through two forehand winners that put Tsitsipas on the back foot. Five games went the Frenchman’s way before Tsitsipas held serve, but Monfils clinched the 41-minute opener with a crosscourt forehand winner – his ninth off the forehand (and 15th overall).
The pressure never left Tsitsipas, who double-faulted in the third game on Monfils’ sixth break-point chance of the second set. But while the Greek’s energy level continued to drop, two errors from Monfils let Tsitsipas get back to 3-3. At 4-5, 30/40, Monfils clipped the line with a crosscourt forehand winner to save a set point, but 19 minutes later after a forehand at 5/4 in the tie-break was called in — but was in fact wide according to HawkEye — Tsitsipas clinched the set.
" I had some opportunities," said Monfils. "I couldn't make them today. I think I was up a break, and I didn't serve that good at the start of the second set. It was a big confirmation when he broke me back. Less first serves [and] less accuracy. Then, I think, I got those opportunities in the third set."
Monfils saved one break point in the first game of the decider, then a further two at 2-2, while Tsitsipas recovered four break points at 3-4 in a thrilling final set. Earlier this month, Monfils beat Tsitsipas 6-3, 7-6(5) in the Sofia Open quarter-finals, but the margins were smaller on Friday in Dubai. Three double faults at 5-6 appeared to signal the end for Tsitsipas, but he held to force a tie-break and soon broke clear with clinical net play en route to his 15th victory of 2019 (15-4 overall).
"I was not expecting much from me, to be honest," said Tsitsipas. "I was just playing. My main focus was not to go for too much. If you would play good shots, usually I would run for them, give 100 per cent. But today I felt like my body would crack if I did that again. I guess he understood that… He was missing a couple of shots. He had a break points to go 5-3 up [in the third set]."
Monfils, 32, who has suffered a catalogue of injuries since rising to a career-high No. 6 on 7 November 2016, will return to the Top 20 on Monday for the first time since 24 July 2017 (at No. 16).