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MONTE CARLO (Monaco): Stefanos Tsitsipas successfully defended his Monte Carlo Masters title with a hard-fought 6-3, 7-6 (7/3) victory over Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in Sunday’s final. Third seed Tsitsipas hammered 21 winners and made only 11 unforced errors in the Monaco sunshine to win in an hour and 36 minutes.

It was the 23-year-old Greek’s eighth ATP title and first in 11 months as he made the perfect start to the clay-court season.

“Not in a million years would I have thought I would be in the situation I’m in today,” Tsitsipas said.

“I’m very proud of the amount of belief I had in my game.

“He fought in moments I didn’t really expect him to fight and hit some incredible winners. I believe that’s a great result against him.”

He joins an illustrious list of players to win back-to-back Monte Carlo Masters, including Rafael Nadal, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Thomas Muster and Bjorn Borg.

Tsitsipas, who beat Andrey Rublev in the Monte Carlo final 12 months ago, has now won four clay tournaments in his career.

He is gearing up for another tilt at the French Open title after losing last year’s final at Roland Garros to Novak Djokovic despite leading by two sets.

Davidovich Fokina had knocked out world number one Djokovic earlier this week but could not repeat those heroics in his first ATP final, losing for the third time in as many meetings with Tsitsipas.

“I always thought about being in the final here one day... I hope to be here again next year,” said Davidovich Fokina, who also reached the quarter-finals last year before retiring injured after one set against Tsitsipas.

The world number 46 struck first on Sunday, breaking in the third game, but Tsitsipas hit straight back with a magnificent forehand up the line to level the first set at 2-2.

The set remained on serve until game eight, when Tsitsipas broke as Davidovich Fokina fired a backhand into the tramlines.

The Greek star wrapped up the opener with a hold to love, capped off by an ace.

  • Tight second set -

World number five Tsitsipas carved out two break points in the first game of the second set, and took total control of the final as Davidovich Fokina sent a baseline shot spinning long.

The underdog continued to battle hard, though, breaking back in the fourth game as Tsitsipas framed a backhand into the crowd, with 22-year-old Davidovich Fokina waving his arms in delight.

But Tsitsipas continued to put the Spaniard under pressure and took his third break point of a marathon game to lead 5-4 and tee up the chance to serve for the title.

Tsitsipas produced a nervy game, though, and Davidovich Fokina powered away a smash to extend the match. The second set went into a tie-break, where Tsitsipas raced into a 5-1 lead with the aid of a shot which clipped the net cord and landed on the edge of the sideline. Davidovich Fokina saved one championship point, but Tsitsipas secured the trophy at the second time of asking with a wonderful passing shot after some defiant defence by him.

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