Tsitsipas successfully defends title in Monte Carlo

MONACO (AP) — Stefanos Tsitsipas appeared happy to hear fans “yelling and chanting” again at the Monte Carlo Masters as he beat unseeded Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-3, 7-6 (3) to retain his title on Sunday.

“It’s a great feeling because we had the crowd this year,” the third-seeded Greek said after winning the first big final of the clay-court season. “It was a bit more lively than last year.”

The coronavirus meant the 2020 edition was canceled and the 2021 tournament held without fans. So Tsitsipas felt the intensity more on his way to an eighth career title.

“It’s much more nerve-racking to have people involved, you have the fans yelling and chanting, but it was a great way to top it off with lots of fighting in the end,” Tsitsipas said. “He fought in moments I did not expect him to fight.”

Davidovich Fokina, the Spaniard who knocked out Novak Djokovic in the second round, was playing his first ATP final.

Tsitsipas, who lost last year’s French Open final in five sets to Djokovic after leading 2-0, became the first repeat champion at the Monte Carlo Masters since Rafael Nadal in 2018.

Tsitsipas won the first set despite conceding an early break. Davidovic Fokina overcame an early break in the second and broke twice. Tsitsipas squandered a chance to serve out the match at 5-4 but still wrapped up the final in 1 hour, 36 minutes.

“I am very proud of myself,” Tsitsipas said. “Things weren’t going well at one point, but I managed to stay composed.”

The 23-year-old Tsitsipas reached the semifinals of the Australian Open in January.

The identity of his opponent in Sunday’s final surprised many.

“I must confess that he was not the Spaniard I was expecting in the final,” said Zeljko Franulovic, the tournament’s director, with 11-time winner Rafael Nadal not playing in Monte Carlo because of a rib injury.

As well as knocking out Djokovic, Davidovich Fokina also beat Indian Wells champion Taylor Fritz in the quarterfinals and Grigor Dimitrov in the semifinals.

“It was an amazing experience,” the 22-year-old Spaniard said about the tournament.

Davidovich Fokina said it had increased his confidence for the rest of the season.

“I will be focused on every point, every game,” Davidovich Fokina said.

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