RECAP: Current clay court ATP Masters 1000 champions
With the clay court season in full swing with the first ATP Masters 1000 tournament in Monte Carlo, Tennishead revisits the reigning champions hoping to defend their clay court Masters 1000 titles in 2022 including a look at how they achieved their success.
2021 Monte Carlo Masters
Heading into the 2021 Monte Carlo Masters title Fabio Fognini was the defending champion however his reign was cut short in the quarter-finals after losing to unseeded Norwegian Casper Ruud.
Favorites Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal both suffered shock defeats leaving the draw wide open for a surprise victor. The number one seed Djokovic was “dismantled” by former British number one Dan Evans in the third round in straight sets whereas Nadal was beaten in the quarter-finals by Russia’s Andrey Rublev over three sets breaking the Spaniard’s serve an impressive four times.
It was Stefanos Tsitsipas who took advantage claiming the title in Monaco. The fourth seed played some scintillating tennis throughout, not dropping a single set on his way to his first ever ATP Masters 1000 title. Tsitsipas beat both Djokovic and Nadal’s victors in the semi-final and final respectively, overcoming Rublev convincingly in the final 6-3, 6-3 to become the first Greek man to win a Masters 1000 tournament.
2021 Madrid Open
Ahead of the 2021 Madrid Open 2019 defending champion Novak Djokovic withdrew from the tournament therefore confirming a new champion. As expected, the new number one seed, Rafael Nadal was the favorite to win the title, especially as he had won the Barcelona Open the week before.
However, Alexander Zverev proved to be too strong for the favorite and the rest of the field as he went on to claim his fourth ATP Masters 1000 title. Similarly to Tsitsipas in Monaco, the German was in red hot form only dropping one set throughout the tournament. The fifth seed beat 2014 US Open runner-up Kei Nishokori in his opening match, before a straight sets win against Dan Evans soon followed in the third round.
It was the quarter-finals where Zverev arguably recorded his most impressive victory en route to the title beating the ‘King of Clay’ in straight sets 6-4, 6-4. Remarkably it was his third win in a row against the Nadal. He summed up the victory saying, “Definitely one of the biggest wins of my career so far, especially on clay against Rafa. It is the toughest thing to do in our sport.”
The fifth seed then again produced another impressive display to defeat third seed Dominic Thiem 6-3, 6-4 in the semi-finals. In the final, the German beat first-time Masters finalist Matteo Berrettini over three sets to claim his second Masters 1000 title on clay and first ever ATP title in Spain.
2021 Rome Open
At the Rome Open, just one week after Madrid, it was Rafael Nadal’s turn to lift the silverware and light up the Foro Italico. Nadal defeated defending champion Novak Djokovic in the final, to claim a record-extending 10th title in Rome and a record-equaling 36th Masters 1000 title overall (matching Djokovic’s tally).
However, Nadal’s record breaking title run did not go all his way. In the final, the momentum looked to be swinging in Djokovic’s favor as the Serbian dominated the Spaniard claiming the second set 6-1 after losing a tightly contested first set.
In his third round tie Nadal was also dangerously close to being knocked out of the tournament, as he was forced to save two match points against Canada’s Denis Shapovalov. However Nadal showed his typical grit and determination to claw his way back into both matches and prevail to win the title.
His win in Rome meant that it was also the fourth time that Nadal had won a tournament on 10 or more occasions (after the French Open, Barcelona and Monte Carlo), making him the only tennis player to accomplish the feat.
Interestingly, it was also Djokovic’s sixth runner-up finish at the Italian Open, a record for the most runner-up finishes at one event on the ATP Tour.
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