Monfils Outlasts Karlovic For D.C. Crown

Frenchman saves one match point for title

Gael Monfils had his back against the wall on Sunday at the Citi Open, but the charismatic Frenchman would not be denied his first ATP World Tour 500 title.

Monfils rallied past Ivo Karlovic 5-7, 7-6(6), 6-4, saving one championship point for the victory after two hours and 14 minutes. It was Monfils' sixth title in total on the ATP World Tour and first since prevailing in Montpellier two years ago. The runner-up in Washington in 2011 (l. to Stepanek), Monfils takes home 500 Emirates ATP Rankings points and $348,200 in prize money.

"It's a real pleasure for me," Monfils said during the trophy presentation. "When I first came, I saw big names like Arthur Ashe and Yannick Noah and I said 'I want to have my name next to them'. They have been big inspirations for me. Every time I come here, the crowd has been really great to me and amazing."

Monfils pressured Karlovic's serve throughout the title bout, including a 0/40 look at 6-5 in the first set, but was not able to break through until the 10th game of the second. Karlovic served for the title at 5-4 and Monfils came up with his first break of the match at the most opportune of moments. The big-serving Croat sent a volley long on the fourth break point of the game to give Monfils the break back. It marked the first time Karlovic had been broken in 54 service games during the week.

Monfils would go on to save a match point at 6-5 in the tie-break with a service winner and forced a decider three points later. The Frenchman would claim the decisive break at 1-1 in the third set. After 53 consecutive service holds, Karlovic was broken twice in four games, as a backhand approach sailed long. Monfils would eventually clinch the title on his first match point.

Match Point(s) Saved Winners In 2016

 M.P. Saved
 Gael Monfils
 Ivo Karlovic
 Dominic Thiem
 Stuttgart  SF
 Diego Schwartzman   Istanbul  QF
 Dominic Thiem
 Buenos Aires
 2R, SF
 1, 1
 Martin Klizan
 QF, SF 
 5, 3
 Viktor Troicki
 Roberto Bautista Agut

Monfils edged ahead 3-2 in the FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry. It was their first encounter since the Mutua Madrid Open in 2011. The second seed is the first Frenchman to lift the Citi Open trophy since Arnaud Clement in 2006. Yannick Noah is the only other player from France to win the title, in 1985.

Karlovic, meanwhile, was attempting to become the oldest player to win ATP World Tour singles titles in successive weeks since Ken Rosewall (38 years, 11 months) in Osaka and Tokyo in October 1973. He was bidding to win his eighth title overall, following a successful run on the grass of Newport last week.

"I was serving better in the first two sets," said Karlovic. "I don't know why, but my serve stopped [when serving for the match]. It happens I guess. I'm not used to that. I was going to win and I lost my serve. That is tennis. Of course, every match you have a little bit of pressure. I've dealt with that in many matches and usually I'm able to get over it. Today I couldn't. But it was a great week."