Ruud ends Djokovic jinx in Monte Carlo to set up Tsitsipas title clash

MONTE CARLO: Casper Ruud finally defeated Novak Djokovic at the sixth attempt yesterday, setting up a Monte Carlo Masters title showdown with Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Norwegian eighth seed Ruud, who had been swept off court by the world No. 1 in a demoralising French Open final loss last year, came through 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 in his semi-final when Djokovic double-faulted after saving two match points.

An inspired Tsitsipas handed world No. 2 Jannik Sinner just his second loss of the season as the two-time champion Greek booked his place in today's final, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.

"I'm super-happy, this is a day I will remember for a really long time," said Ruud who had never taken a set off Djokovic in their five previous meetings.

"I've never beaten Novak and I've never beaten a world No. 1. I'm still in a little bit of shock."

Ruud and Djokovic traded breaks in the final set, with the Norwegian getting the final word when Djokovic blinked first after just over two and a quarter hours.

"I was up and he came back, the top guys are good under pressure," Ruud said. "I was just hoping the match would not slip away.

"In the last game I was hoping something or someone up above was listening... I was so happy to see that last ball sail along."

On today's final, Ruud added: "Stef will be tough in the final but I will give it my all."

Djokovic was competing in his first semi-final in Monte Carlo since he lifted his second title in 2015. He was hoping to reach a 59th Masters final.

"Congratulations to Casper. He played really good, especially in the beginning of the first and third set," said the 36-year-old top seed.

"Of course I'm disappointed now, to lose a match like this... it was a close one."

Tsitsipas's victory ended the nine-match winning streak of Australian Open champion Sinner who also has titles in Rotterdam and Miami to his name this season.

"Today was a great day, I'm hoping for a good recovery and a fresh mind," said Tsitsipas. "I hope to come out extra strong tomorrow."

Sinner began the final set, during which he was twice treated for a right knee injury, with a break of serve.

But he lost it in the eighth game after saving four break points which allowed Tsitsipas to level at 4-4.

The Greek then finished it off by playing what he called "tennis at the highest level that I've been able to play recently."

Tsitsipas, ranked 12th, won the title in Monte Carlo in 2021 and 2022 and declared he is returning to top form after falling out of the top 10.

"It will help my confidence to have a win like this," he said. "I'm aiming for the top level again."

Tsitsipas secured the opening set with a break in the third game, but the Italian put up a fight to level in the second.

Sinner broke on the way to a 3-0 lead and fought to save five break points in a 13-minute marathon final game before squaring the match on his second set point.

Sinner said a poor third-set line call caused him to cramp up and lose focus.

Instead of a double-fault being called, which would have given the Italian a double break, the point played on, with Tsitsipas holding serve for 2-3.

After two more games, Sinner called for the trainer.

"It's hard to accept it," the Italian second seed said of the call. "I was playing really well at that time."

"Everyone can make a mistake. Afterwards, I had cramps, most likely because of what happened, because it also affects your nerves." --AFP

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