Transitioning from hard courts to clay can sometimes take a little time before a player acclimatizes and brings their “A” game. Such was not the case for Andrey Rublev, who captured the first Masters 1000 title of his career this past week in Monte Carlo. The World No. 6 was victorious over Holger Rune 5-7, 6-2, 7-5 to claim the championship.
It was a match that at many times seemed like it wasn’t going Rublev’s way, as the younger Rune had moments where he seemed untouchable in the match. Ultimately Rublev’s experience and strong defence allowed him to persevere.
It was Rune who broke first for a 4-2 lead in the first set. All aspects of his game were clicking and he was utilizing his drop shot with supreme effectiveness against Rublev.
Rublev would break back later on, but while serving at 5-6, 30-40, the Russian struck a forehand long that gave Rune the opening set 7-5.
The second set started with several breaks of serve as Rune hit a cross-court forehand wide to give the opening service break to Rublev who would then consolidate for a 2-0 lead. Rune however broke him right back to even things up at 2-2 before Rublev broke his opponent’s serve once more for a 3-2 lead. Rune gifted Rublev a double break later in the middle frame allowing him a 5-2 lead before he closed out the set 6-2.
Rather than slowing things down in the second set when things weren’t going his way, Rune was rushing from one point to the next as Rublev found his form, an area for the Dane to continue to work through as he grows.
With some great returning to start the third set, Rune was able to go up 2-0. Later in the set, Rune was leading 4-1 and had a break point, 30-40, on Rublev’s serve but couldn’t take advantage. It would have allowed Rune to serve for the match and almost surely would have been the end of Rublev.
Instead, Rune couldn’t seem to get over the missed opportunity and began to slowly let Rublev claw his way back into the match with his impeccable defensive play. There were several shots that Rublev had no business getting back, but he continued to stay in the points and find a way to shift the momentum in his favour.
Rublev’s expert defence was again on full display late in the third set and helped propel him to 0-30 on Rune’s serve at 5-5 by constantly making Rune hit one extra ball and eventually force a mistake. Rune’s serve would again let him down at a key moment in the match as he double faulted to give Rublev the critical break for 6-5.
Rublev didn’t waste time in his final service game, closing out the match with an ace and fell to his back as he realized he just won his first Masters 1000 title. The emotion of the moment hit him as soon as he landed on the red clay, and tears of joy came streaming down his face as he rose and shook hands with Rune.
“After struggling so much, so many times, losing in the finals, semifinals, losing even earlier, yeah, struggled so much to win first 1000 Masters and finally I did it. I did it in Monaco with the really historic tournament,” said Rublev after the victory.
After losing the finals in Monte Carlo two years ago at the hands of Stefanos Tsitsipas, Rublev now has earned the biggest title of his career. At 25 years old, Rublev is showing he’s a big threat in the upper echelon of the ATP Tour. He now has 13 career titles with four of them coming on clay.
For Rune, he moves up to a career-high ranking of No. 7. Aside from his rapidly growing confidence on court, he also brings a bit of an edge that has ruffled the feathers of some of his peers, including veteran Stan Wawrinka recently who advised him he had some growing-up to do.
The fifth-seeded tandem of Austin Krajicek and Ivan Dodig claimed the title with a 6-0. 4-6, 14-12 win over Romain Arneodo and Sam Weissborn in one of the stranger scorelines you’ll come across. It was a big moment for the pair who hoisted their first Masters 1000 title together.
The middle frame was the only set that Krajicek and Dodig dropped all week in Monte Carlo. They had to dig deep in the finals where they were forced to save two championship points in the final set tiebreak before prevailing. Krajicek and Dodig now find themselves in fourth place in the ATP Race to the Nitto ATP Finals.
There were no Canadians in action in Monte-Carlo this year. This tournament has not been kind to Canada’s two singles stars in the past. Felix Auger-Aliassime has a career 1-4 record at the event and was resting a knee injury. He hopes to return in a week’s time in Madrid.
Denis Shapovalov also wasn’t present in Monte-Carlo where he holds an 0-2 record in previous appearances. Shapo plays Barcelona this week as the 14th seed.
TENNIS CANADA BRACKET CHALLENGE
Just as many tennis pros have a good week followed by a mediocre one, so too did my results go in the Tennis Canada Bracket Challenge. After a strong showing in Miami on the hard courts, my transition to clay didn’t go as smoothly as Rublev’s and I finished in 379th position. Thankfully my overall results are stronger and I’m in 50th place at the moment.
In terms of where I went wrong, I had Novak Djokovic winning the title which clearly didn’t even come close to occurring. He fell to Italy’s Lorenzo Musetti in the round of sixteen. My bracket also leaned heavily on Alexander Zverev and Casper Ruud to have strong events, which also did not come to pass.
The next tournament where you can continue your Bracket Challenge quest is in Madrid which begins April 26th.