Andrey Rublev's pace from the baseline kept opponents on their heels and running down rockets before reaching the final round against Stefanos Tsitsipas. The Russian's hard-hitting groundstrokes weren't a concern for the Greek player, as he absorbed the pace with precise ball movement to claim a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Rublev at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters 1000.
Just two rounds prior, Rublev scored a three-set victory over arguably the strongest clay-courter in Rafael Nadal and brace yourself—he broke the Spaniard seven times in the process. Although the 23-year-old kept up the pace, it was Tsitsipas who controlled the majority of the points to pick up his first Masters 1000 title, hitting 18 winners to Rublev's 10.
"I think he made a bit of a statement, we know that him and Rublev are going to be competing over the next decade for very big titles," Tennis Channel host Prakash Amritraj stated following Tsitsipas' win. "I think this sets a bit of a precedent, he not only defeated him here, but in a big match at Roland Garros. When you start winning those big matches over a soon-to-be rival it sticks in your head."
With the way Tsitsipas handled the pressure and weight of the big moment, there's no doubt this final will stick in both of their heads going forward.
Not only was the world No. 5's game from the back of the court spectacular, but his second serve was a major component in winning the match with ease. Rublev only claimed 33% of second-serve points and that was largely due to the drop in speed, which in turn gave Tsitsipas complete control. Tsitsipas on the other hand, held a 68% winning percentage on his second serve.
It was 22-year-old's day on the red clay, but he reminded Rublev that although he didn't take the winner's trophy home this weekend, he will pick up his first Masters 1000 title sooner rather than later.
"I know it's not easy," Tsitsipas said in his on-court speech. "I understand. I've been in that position myself and I'd like to remind you of what a great athlete you are and what incredible matches we have played in the past. I'm pretty sure we will continue playing matches like this and making the sport grow together.
Congratulations on the job you've done so far, to be where you are. There will be plenty more to come in the future. You're going to win some, I hope I'm going to win some as well."
The final-round appearance in Monte Carlo moves Rublev up to world No. 7, a career-high ranking for the Moscow native. The two will be back on the dirt in just a few days time in Barcelona, with a chance to meet again in the event's semifinal.