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Nadal still the ultimate test, says Monte Carlo champ Tsitsipas

April 15, 2024 10:02 IST

Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas celebrates with the trophy after winning the Monte Carlo Masters final against Norway's Casper Ruud on Sunday

IMAGE: Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas celebrates with the trophy after winning the Monte Carlo Masters final against Norway's Casper Ruud on Sunday. Photograph: Denis Balibouse/Reuters

Rafael Nadal could return to action this week in Barcelona and play just his second event of an injury-hit season and while the Spaniard lacks match practice Stefanos Tsitsipas said it would be no surprise to see him battling for the title in the final.

Nadal, who has said he expects to retire after the 2024 season, returned to the tour in Brisbane in January after nearly a year out with a hip flexor injury and the 37-year-old has not played an ATP tournament since due to a muscle issue.

The 22-times Grand Slam champion looked set to make another comeback at the Monte Carlo Masters this month but withdrew days before the start of the claycourt tournament, saying his body would not allow him to play.


Nadal has won the Barcelona title 12 times and is drawn to play Flavio Cobolli on Tuesday, and while there has been no word on his status Tsitsipas said the Spaniard would have no trouble finding form on his favourite surface.

"I wouldn't be surprised if we saw Rafa in the final of Barcelona, because that's something he has done over and over again for years and years," Tsitsipas, who won the Monte Carlo title for a third time on Sunday, told reporters.

"What he does have is this competitiveness and this fierce tennis when he gets into the momentum that sometimes feels like on the outside perspective unstoppable ... I think he's the ultimate challenge on clay.

"Whether he's playing now at, let's say, later stages of his career or the ones before, what he has now that he didn't before is experience, and he for sure knows ways to win points and to prevail more in economy mode than before."

World number seven Tsitsipas, a three-times runner-up in Barcelona, will aim to carry his good form from Monaco to Spain after winning his first title of the season with a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Casper Ruud.

"I did need a week like this a lot, especially (after) the rough months I've been through the latter half of 2023 until now," Tsitsipas said.

"It hasn't been the best of times in terms of where I wanted to be, so getting back here and winning the title is something I was definitely not aiming for and it came naturally."

Tsitsipas made short work of Norwegian eighth seed Casper Ruud as he seized a third Monte Carlo Masters title in four years with a 6-1, 6-4 victory on Sunday.

Tsitsipas dominated proceedings against fellow 25-year-old Ruud from the onset, cruising through six consecutive games to wrap up the opening set in 36 minutes.

The second set was a much closer affair but Tsitsipas proved too strong for Ruud, as the Greek became the first player in the professional era to win his first three Monte Carlo finals in straight sets.

Tsitsipas, who handed Australian Open champion Jannik Sinner just his second defeat of the year in the semi-finals on Saturday, secured his first title of 2024, taking his career haul to 11.

Tsitsipas joins Nadal, Bjorn Borg, Thomas Muster and Ilie Nastase to win at least three Monte Carlo titles.

"It's been very difficult. To be back on the podiums and winning tournaments feels amazing," Tsitsipas said.

"I can't thank enough my family and friends... for making this possible.

"The trinity is even more special than the first or second time. This is purely unbelievable for me. Capturing that win today was nerve-wracking. I really wanted the trinity so I got it. I'm extremely happy today."

Having come into the claycourt Masters 1000 event with an 11-6 win-loss record for 2024, Tsitsipas will return to the world's top 10 on Monday after dropping out for the first time since 2019 earlier in the year.

But it was yet another heartbreak for former French and U.S. Open finalist Ruud, who had stunned world number one Novak Djokovic in the semis, having lost the Mexican and Los Cabos Open final earlier this year.

"I'd like to congratulate Stef for winning Monte Carlo once again," Ruud said. "You (Tsitsipas) love this tournament. Very, very well played all week.

"I know you fell out of top 10 a few weeks ago but you're back again where I think you belong. You're a fantastic player and especially on clay and Monte Carlo... Congratulations to you and your team." 

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