Jannik Sinner defeated France’s Gael Monfils in Sunday’s final to retain the ATP Sofia Open title. The 20-year-old Italian won 6-3 6-4 in an hour and 19 minutes of play. It marked the first time that Sinner captured an ATP title without dropping a set all week.
An exemplary performance by the young Italian saw him break Monfils’ serve early on in each set. His weight of shot and varied serving gave the Frenchman very little chance of notching an upset and add to his 10 ATP titles. Instead, it was Sinner who picked up the fourth tour-level title of his fledgling career and stays in contention to reach the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin.
Sinner played flawless tennis from start to finish
Sinner made a blistering start by breaking Monfils’ serve in the second game of the match. Given his proficiency of breakpoints conversion throughout the week, he was bound to take any chance with aplomb. His precise footwork and fluid grounstrokes kept Monfils pinned on the baseline. Sinner also used width by opening up the angles and putting the 35-year-old in difficult positions. He took a commanding lead with a break of serve to lead 2-0.
— ATP Tour (@atptour) October 3, 2021
Monfils had been behind in sets during the week and came back. Sinner, for his part, had let slip leads in sets, most notably against Duckworth and Filip Krajinovic.
But the major turning point was perhaps the seventh game in the first set when Monfils manufactured his only break points in the match. Sinner outlasted the seemingly tireless veteran in a mammoth 32-stroke rally to snuff away danger, and after two accurate first serves he dug himself out of trouble. That was the closest Monfils came to restore parity. Sinner went on to wrap the first set in 40 minutes.
The second set began badly for Monfils. He opened it up with an error-strewn game and lost serve. For all of Sinner’s masterful serving, he was only taken to deuce on two occasions. The Italian would go on to consolidate for the whole afternoon.
Resurgent Monfils back to his best in Sofia
Monfils was playing in his first final in almost 20 months. By virtue of reaching the final in Sofia, he maintained an incredible personal streak of his own. He has reached at least one ATP final every year for 17 years–a run that began in Sopot, Poland when he won his maiden title in 2005. Among active players, only Rafael Nadal eclipses Monfils’ record with 18.
Longest active streaks of making one or more ATP finals each year:
18 – Nadal (2004-2021)
17 – @Gael_Monfils (2005-2021)
— ATP Tour (@atptour) October 2, 2021
The Frenchman endured a turbulent first of half of the season which stemmed from his poor form towards the tail end of last year. But following a spate of good results during the summer, he has managed to haul himself into a top-20 ranking.
Sinner chasing possible berth at the season-ending ATP Finals
In the post-match trophy presentation, Sinner was gracious to his defeated opponent saying, “First of all Gael, great week, you were unlucky in some moments. We had some great fights. Tennis needs you Gael, thank you for staying here even without crowds. Good luck to you.”
The young Italian continued, “Obviously to my team after a lot of weeks training, all the hours in the gym, we try to improve day after day, and hopefully we can great end to the season.”
After his successful title defense, Sinner rises to 10th in the ATP Race. With Nadal out of contetion for the rest of the year, that means ninth place should be enough to seal the last remaining slot at the Nitto ATP Finals to be held in Sinner’s home country.
The Italian is on 2505 points, 170 points behind Casper Ruud in ninth (without factoring his San Diego points). He also trails Hubert Hurkacz, who is on 2775 points–another player he can overtake in the coming weeks.
Main Photo from Getty.