Monfils Reaches First ATP Tour Final Of 2021

Gaël Monfils (photo: Sofia Open/

WASHINGTON, October 3, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

World No. 20 Gaël Monfils kept alive one of the longest active streaks in pro men’s tennis with his 7-5, 6–0 semifinal victory over No. 67 Marcos Giron in the semifinals of the Sofia Open on Saturday.

By reaching Sunday’s final, his first ATP Tour title match of the season, Monfils has reached one or more ATP Tour finals in each of the past 17 years – from 2005 through 2021. The 35-year-old from France is second only to Rafael Nadal, who has reached one or more finals in 18 years – from 2004 through 2021.

Monfils’ last championship match came at Rotterdam in 2020, when he earned his 10th ATP Tour title over Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada. On Sunday, he will play defending Sofia Open champion and this year’s No. 1 seed Jannik Sinner of Italy, who beat No. 5 seed Filip Krajinovic of Serbia, 6-3, 7-5, in the other semifinal match inside Arena Armeec Sofia.

The second seed Monfils came back from 2-4 down in the opening set and won 11 of the next 12 games to beat Giron in just 65 minutes.

“It was a great match,” Monfils declared during his on-court interview. “At the beginning, Marcos was playing very solid. I could not find the exit door and at the end I found it.

“I am very happy as I was very solid. It was a very physical match with lots of long rallies. I am very happy to get through.”

The 28-year-0ld American Giron was playing in his first ATP Tour tour-level semifinal after beating a pair of seeded Australians, No. 3 seed Alex de Minaur and No. 8 seed John Millman earlier in the tournament.  However, Monfils made some necessary adjustments as the match progressed and it worked out for him in the end.

“I felt in his rhythm he was crushing the ball, so I wanted to change the speed a little and come to the net a little bit and step in. Just mix it up a little bit and I think that was key for me,” he said.

Monfils hit six aces, won 82 percent (27 of 33) of his first-serve points, and was broken just once. He broke Giron five times in 10 opportunities and outpointed his opponent 63-39.

Meanwhile, the 14th-ranked Sinner is into his fourth ATP Tour final this season to go along with his earlier title-match efforts at the Great Ocean Road in Melbourne, the Miami Open and the Citi Open in Washington, D.C., which produced two titles (Melbourne and Washington, D.C.). The common denominator is each was played on a hard court surface. The 20-year-old Sinner will move into 10th place in the FedEx ATP Race to Turin after Sofia, in which the top eight qualify for the season-ending champion to be held Nov. 14-21 at Pala Alpitour in Turin, Italy.

In his semifinal, Sinner hit seven aces, won 86 percent (24 of 28) of his first serves, and won nearly half (36 of 77) of his return points. Sinner outpointed the 37th-ranked Krajinovic 75-58 for his eighth straight win in Sofia.

“It was a very tough match against him,” Sinner admitted. “We practice at times together, so we know each other’s games a little bit. There was a chance to go to a tie-break, which I luckily avoided. I am happy to be in the final here again.”

Sinner, who is yet to drop a set this week in the Bulgarian capital city, will play Monfils for the fourth time in their career. He owns a 2-1 career head-to-head advantage against the Frenchman. Most recently, Sinner won a third-round, five-setter, 7-6 (1), 6-2, 4-6, 4-6, 6-4 at last month’s US Open.

“We always have tough matches,” Sinner said. “It is the fourth time we will play. We had a tough one at the US Open in the fifth. He is a great player, everyone knows that. He is moving really well, which helps a lot. It is not going to be easy, but I can be happy to be in the final and I will enjoy it.”

• No. 3 seeds Oliver Marach and Philipp Oswald, both from Austria, saved a pair of match points to beat unseeded Santiago Gonzalez of Mexico and Andres Molteni of Argentina, 2-6, 7-5, 10-6, and advance to their first tour-level final as a team this season. They will face unseeded pair Ken Skupski and Jonny O’Mara in Sunday’s final after the British duo beat another unseeded team, Matwe Middelkoop of the Netherlands and Roman Jebavy of Czech Republic, 6-3, 6-1, in the other semifinal match.

Norrie eliminates top seed Rublev at San Diego Open

Cameron Norrie of Great Britain rallied from a set down to beat top seed Andrey Rublev, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, at the San Diego Open Saturday and reach his fifth ATP Tour final of the season.

The 28th-ranked Norrie’s upset of the World No. 5 from Russia – his third career Top 10 win – was inspiring if not surprising. This week, the 26-year-old Norrie has set down No. 66 Dominik Koepfer of Germany, fellow British and eighth seed Dan Evans, No. 4 seed Denis Shapovalov of Canada and now Rublev. He’s lost just one set.

“It’s nice to get some revenge,” said Norrie, who lost to Rublev last year 6-2, 6-1 in the St. Petersburg quarterfinals in their only other meeting.

“What an incredible match. All credit to Andrey, he came out firing. He played some big tennis at the beginning and I managed to weather the storm at the start of the second. I don’t even know what happened there.

“I was so emotional, it’s such a big win for me. I’m good friends with Andrey so it’s not easy playing against him. It was definitely a match that I’m going to remember for a long time.”

Norrie hit eight aces and won 71 percent (41 of t58) of his first-serve points. He saved eight of nine break points against Rublev, including five of five in the second set, and despite being outpointed 90-89 – thanks in part to the Russian’s 13 service aces – it was Norrie (41-19) who will be playing in Sunday’s title match of the ATP 250 outdoor hard court event at Barnes Tennis Center.

The British No. 2 will oppose No. 2 seed Casper Ruud of Norway, who has won four ATP Tour titles this season, and is into his fifth final – and first on a hard court. The World No. 10 defeated No. 29 Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria, who was chasing after his first title since 2017, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, in just under two and one-half hours.

“Playing Grigor, you have to play well from all corners of the court and run well as he can hit winners from everywhere. He’s one of the toughest guys to play on tour as he has all the shots in the bag,” Ruud said during his post-match interview.

“I tried to hang in there and I won the important points that in the end gave me the win. It was a high level from the first point to the last. I’m happy to be in my first hard court final.”

• The doubles final will match up No. 1 seeds Joe Salisbury and Neal Skupski, both from Great Britain, against No. 3 seeds John Peers of Australia and Filip Polasek of Slovakia.

Salisbury and Skupski advanced with a 6-4, 7-6 (3) semifinal win over Jordan Thompson of Australia and Jackson Withrow of the United States, while Peers and Polasek defeated Marcelo Arevalo-Gonzalez of Slovenia and Federico Delbonis of Argentina, 6-2, 6-1.