Rublev eliminates Fritz 5-7, 6-1, 6-3 to reach final in Monte Carlo
While Andrey Rublev reached the final in 2021 (l. Tsitsipas), Fritz’s best result was the quarters last year at this clay court Masters 1000 event. While both are twenty-five and have reached a career high ranking of #5, the Russian is now #6 while the American has dropped to ten.
Although Fritz led the head-to-head 4-2, this was their first meeting on the dirt. Fritz claimed his first and only Masters 1000 crown last year in the desert at Indian Wells while Rublev was 0-2 in finals. (Monte Carlo & Cincy).
The American seeded 8th knocked out the two-time defending champion Stefanos Tsitsipas to reach the penultimate round. Rublev with four career top-ten clay court victories, (Dominic Thiem, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Rafa Nadal & Novak Djokovic) was determined to get another crack at this elusive trophy.
Under damp, breezy conditions, Fritz opened the match and following four unforced errors dropped serve while Rublev struck four winners including two aces to consolidate the break at love. Fritz held easily to 15 for 1-2 while Rublev missed 3/5 first serves and with two consecutive forehand errors, gave back the break.
Fritz opened the fifth with a double fault and with four additional errors dumped serve while Rublev missed 5/8 first serves and gave back the break. Level at 3-3, Fritz held easily to 15 with two consecutive groundstroke winners while Rublev serving with new balls, missed 6/6 first serves yet managed to hold to level.
Fritz opened the 9th with an ace up the tee but with two consecutive forehand errors faced double break point and following another break point and forehand error, conceded the game. The Russian opened with a stunning forehand drop shot and though he made 5/5 first serves, faced 15-40 and gave back the break when Fritz ripped the forehand return.
The American opened the 11th with a blistering backhand down the line and with three additional winners including his second ace, held to 15 for 6-5. Rublev served to force the tiebreak and while he reached game point at 40-15, gifted three unforced errors to drop the set.
Fritz served first in the second and dumped serve following three unforced errors including a double fault while Rublev donated three unforced errors but with four winners – two off the forehand and two smashes – consolidated the break for 2-0.
Fritz missed 4/6 first serves but hit two winners to hold to 30 to get on the board. Rublev missed 5/8 first serves and faced a break point but managed to hold for 3-1. Fritz serving with new balls donated two consecutive backhand errors, faced two break points, and dropped serve with his fourth backhand error.
Rublev opened the 6th with a remarkable backhand half-volley off a deep return but with three double faults faced four deuce and two break points yet held with a huge serve up the tee. Fritz down 1-5 hit his third ace but with two double faults faced two deuce and four set points and conceded the set with another double fault.
Rublev served first in the third and claimed the opening point following a twenty-eight-shot rally when Fritz went wide with a backhand and held easily to 15 when Fritz overcooked the return.
The American opened with a backhand error but with this third ace held to 30 for 1-1. Rublev faced double break point and dropped serve as Fritz upped the pace off the ground. The American faced 0-30 following a mishit forehand and double fault but saved a break point with a fantastic forehand down the line following an extraordinary 40-shot rally. He would, however, give back the break when Rublev ripped a backhand down the line.
Level at two apiece, the Russian missed 3/4 first serves yet held to love for 3-2. During the changeover the rain became heavier, and the chair suspended the match at 4:00pm local time. The players returned to the court after 1 ¾ hours and following the warmup resumed play.
Fritz, perhaps uneasy with the damp conditions and his opponent’s aggressive play, was on edge for most of the match. He missed 3/6 first serves, faced double break point, and dumped serve following an epic 34-shot rally which Rublev ended with a magnificent backhand down the line.
Rublev remained laser focused as he held at love to consolidate the break. Fritz, serving to stay in the match down 2-5, missed 8/12 first serves and faced three deuce and three match points yet found a way to hold. The reprieve was short-lived however as Rublev struck winners off both wings to close out the match at love and reach his second final in two years.
He finished with two aces, three double faults and won 65% of first and 50% of second serve points. He was more impressive when returning, winning 36% of first and 65% of second serve return points. He saved 3/8 break points but converted just 8/21. While he will bemoan those missed opportunities, he’ll revel in the opportunity to play for his first Masters 1000 title.
His opponent will be Jannik Sinner or Holger Rune. Rublev trails Sinner 2-3 in the head-to-head including last year in the round of 16 in Monaco. He is 1-1 vs Rune out lasting the Dane in a five-set epic in the round of 16 this past January at the Australian Open.
No matter the opponent, the Russian will need to bring his A+ game against two of the brightest young stars on the ATP tour. Sinner from Italy and just twenty-one, has made and lost two Masters 1000 finals in Miami while Rune two years his junior, defeated Novak Djokovic last fall at the Paris Indoors to capture his maiden Masters 1000 title.