Can Stefanos Tsitsipas dominate the clay-swing 2024?

The Greek appears in good form, fit this surface and, perhaps, fresher than his opponents

by Lorenzo Ciotti
Can Stefanos Tsitsipas dominate the clay-swing 2024?
© Getty Images Sport - Julian Finney

Stefanos Tsitsipas may have the chance of a lifetime in this clay-swing 2024. The victory in Monte Carlo, his 3rd in his career in this event, has, I believe, marked an important pattern regarding the clay season.

What does this victory tell us? Given the difficulties overcome in the semi-final won against Jannik Sinner (let's also consider the young Italian's cramps and that mistake by the umpire which would have changed the match) Tsitsipas can see - at least at the moment - a scorched earth around him.

Sinner has improved on clay-courts, but between now and the Roland Garros we will actually have to see what his real improvements were on clay-courts, after having dominated on hard-courts.

Jannik Sinner and Stefanos Tsitsipas
Jannik Sinner and Stefanos Tsitsipas © Getty Images Sport - Julian Finney

Carlos Alcaraz missed Monte Carlo and he will miss Barcelona due to an arm injury. The rest of his clay season is an unknown and will depend on the severity and recovery time of the arm injury. Also Rafael Nadal's comeback will be an unknown. The Spaniard will play in Barcelona the first official tournament since the Brisbane International last January. His real physical conditions are not known: if Rafa is physically at the top, he is unbeatable on clay, but there are many, too many unknowns about him.

Novak Djokovic is continuing to experience a horror 2024, including the semifinal lost in Monte Carlo to Casper Ruud. Of course, the same thing goes for Rafa: if Djokovic dusts off his real tennis, there will be little his opponents can do. The Serbian's speech is different from that of the Spaniard, however, because at the moment Nole seems to have more of a psychological problem rather than a physical one.

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic © Getty Images Sport - Julian Finney

So Tsitsipas can be the right man in the right place and at the right time. Physical problems, adaptability, allergy to clay-courts, psycho-physical troubles: his opponents have these problems precisely at the moment of the season preferred by the Greek, who arrives at the clay-swing also in an excellent psycho-physical moment.

Tsitsipas displayed a high level of play with continuity, something that hadn't happened in a while. The victory against the Italian was very important for the Greek who spoke about that match in the press conference to describe his journey in Monte-Carlo.

"I really needed a week like this, especially given the difficult months we've experienced since the middle of last season. Coming back here and winning the title wasn't something I was really aiming for. I never imagined I would win this tournament three times. I have always thought that Monte-Carlo is a special place for me. If I had to compare the three victories, I would say that this is the best from the point of view of the expressed level.

In the semi-final I faced a world-class tennis player who by now refused to defeat anyone and had opened an incredible series of victories. Overcoming that obstacle is a testament to the fact that my tennis is progressing and reaffirms that I am capable of beating these great players.

Sinner is good on all surfaces and plays well everywhere. His level is different compared to the last times I faced him on clay. He's definitely a better player now. The other day he pushed me to the limit and I had to reach a level of physicality that I hadn't found in a long time. I think Jannik will be one of the favorites throughout the clay court season," analyzed Tsitsipas.

Stefanos Tsitsipas
Stefanos Tsitsipas © Getty Images Sport - Julian Finney

And what about Casper Ruud?

And his opponent in the final, Casper Ruud? At the ATP Master 1000 in Monte Carlo there was another defeat in the final for the Norwegian, who after his success in the semi-final against Djokovic, was unable to repeat his good performance against Tsitsipas.

The data relating to the finals lost in the main tournaments is starting to become disheartening for the Norwegian tennis player. Of the five finals between the Slam tournaments and the ATP Master 1000, Ruud has collected as many defeats, winning only one set.

"Unfortunately I didn't start well. I had some chances to come back but I wasn't able to. I always played defensively, on the counterattack, from behind. I wasn't able to get into the game. Stef played well. He played aggressively, fantastic with his forehand and I think he played very well with his backhand today too.

I think there were some small opportunities in the second, where I had break chances again, but when you don't convert them, it's difficult to win games," he said at the press conference.

Casper Ruud
Casper Ruud © Getty Images Sport - Julian Finney

On the difficulty of managing emotions after the success against Djokovic in the semifinals, the Norwegian explained:

"Obviously yesterday was a difficult match with Novak. Today, honestly, was the first match I played during the day in these hot conditions. It was a little different, because when the sun sets, you play in the evening, not it's as fast as today.

So it was a bit difficult to adapt to the conditions and speed of the court. But emotionally I was ready. Today I woke up and thought: Today is the day I will try to win a major title. I just wasn't able to do my duty when I took the court."

Casper Ruud
Casper Ruud © Getty Images Sport - Julian Finney

Ruud was, in September 2022, just one win away from first place in the rankings. Will he be able to return to those levels?

"We can't go back in time, but a year and a half ago I was maybe close enough to winning or at least playing the final at the US Open and I was close enough to becoming No. 1 in the world.

That year was amazing for me. 2023 was a bit of a disappointment compared to 2022, but I was prepared to think that it would be a really difficult year, because I had a lot of points to defend, and you always hope to do better, but it's not always easy.

This year I feel like I'm back on track, I play a little looser, I don't have too many things to lose anymore. Sometimes, when I think about it, I've achieved more than I thought was possible in my career, but in doing so you also want to chase and push for even more.

Obviously a Grand Slam or an ATP 1000 is my next dream, a big goal. Today I managed to play a 1000 final. I didn't manage to win, so I will continue to chase and try to always improve my game," he explained.

Stefanos Tsitsipas