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Tsitsipas to become first Greek man to rank in the ATP top 10 after beating Monfils to reach Dubai final

Hannah Wilks in ATP Tour 1 Mar 2019
  • Stefanos Tsitsipas beat Gael Monfils 4-6, 7-6(4), 7-6(4) to reach the final of the ATP Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships
  • Tsitsipas will rank inside the world's top 10 when the new ATP Tour rankings are released on Monday
  • The Greek faces Roger Federer in Saturday's ATP Dubai final
Stefanos Tsitsipas celebrates victory over Gael Monfils in the semifinals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships (KARIM SAHIB/AFP/Getty Images)

Stefanos Tsitsipas will rise into the world's top 10 after reaching the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships final.



Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas battled past Gael Monfils to reach the final of the 500-level Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, and set up a clash with Roger Federer.

As a result of reaching the final, Tsitsipas will be ranked inside the world's top 10 when the ATP Tour releases its new official rankings on Monday - the first Greek man ever to break into the top 10. 

Gael Monfils celebrates winning a point against Tsitsipas in Dubai (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)
Both Monfils and Tsitsipas came into the semifinal clash on winning streaks. Monfils had won eight matches in a row after triumphing at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam two weeks ago and was looking for back-to-back 500 titles. Tsitsipas claimed his second ATP Tour title last week in Marseille and was on a seven-match winning streak after reaching the semifinals in Dubai.

It was the Australian Open semifinalist who made the brighter start, taking a 3-0 lead in the first set and playing some incredible tennis. But it didn't take Monfils long to find his feet as the French player reeled off five games in a row. Tsitsipas stopped the run of games against him by holding for 4-5, but Monfils closed the first set out with a sizzling forehand winner to lead 6-4.

It began to look as if all Tsitsipas's recent tennis had caught up with him as he double-faulted wildly to trail by a break early in the second set, but the 20-year-old Greek managed to get back on serve as a lapse of concentration from Monfils and a small flurry of unforced errors - not the first time this has been an issue for Monfils, who has had to go to three sets twice already in Dubai against Marin Cilic and, less forgiveably, Ricardas Berankis - saw Tsitsipas level at 3-3. Tsitsipas continued to look tired, but he was succeeding in dragging Monfils into more and more long points, as well as having an easier time holding position on the baseline. 

It paid off as he earned a set point on Monfils's serve at 4-5, which he thought he had converted, but a challenge from Monfils showed that his ball had just clipped the very edge of the line and the French player went on to hold, with the second set eventually going to a tie-break which Tsitsipas edged to level up the match.

The third set was gripping, breathless stuff - often literally, with both players looking very tired at times. Monfils had to save break points in the early going, but it was Tsitsipas who found himself under immense pressure in the eighth game as he double-faulted not once but twice on game point before a third game point was snuffed out by a dazzling Monfils passing shot. Tsitsipas eventually held, but Monfils rubbed salt in the wound by promptly holding to love, and neither man could see a break point before the set went to a decisive tie-break.


After all Monfils's brilliant play throughout the match, it was a single loose forehand that made the difference, giving Tsitsipas a crucial 3-2 advantage which he doggedly defended - although that description doesn't do justice to the audacity with which he successfully attacked the net, and the conviction with which he closed out the win after exactly three hours, 4-6, 7-6(4), 7-6(4).

Tsitsipas attacks the net (KARIM SAHIB/AFP/Getty Images)
'I had some opportunities,' Monfils admitted afterwards. '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.'

There will be some consolation for the Frenchman in knowing that he will return to the top 20 on Monday for the first time since a knee injury brought a premature end to the 2017 season - and that after the way he has played during February, nobody will want to see him in their path at the forthcoming Indian Wells and Miami Masters.

'I was not expecting much from me, to be honest,' Tsitsipas said. '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 decider].'

Tsitsipas's level of fatigue doesn't bode well for Saturday's clash with Federer in the final, especially given that Federer breezed past Borna Coric 6-2, 6-2 in his finest match of the week - and that the seven-time Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships winner has two major incentives to triumph in that final: Firstly, revenge for Tsitsipas's victory over him in the round of 16 at the Australian open, when Federer had and failed to convert 12 break points; and secondly, the enticing prospect of claiming his one hundredth ATP Tour title.

Nevertheless, it's a thrilling day for Tsitsipas, whose star continues to rise.

'The whole match changed out of nowhere,' Tsitsipas said. '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.'

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Tsitsipas to become first Greek man to rank in the ATP top 10 after beating Monfils to reach Dubai final

Stefanos Tsitsipas battled past Gael Monfils 4-6, 7-6(4), 7-6(4) to set up a Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships final against Roger Federer and will become the first Greek man to rank inside the world's top 10 on Monday

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