Denis Shapovalov and Stefanos Tsitsipas are currently ranked fifth and sixth in the U21 Race to Milan and they had to meet in the opening round of Monte Carlo Masters by the will of the draw. A qualifier from Greek scored a 6-3 6-4 triumph in an hour and 20 minutes for his third Masters 1000 win and the fifth of the season overall. This was only the third ATP match on clay for Shapovalov and it is evident he has to work hard in order to improve his results on the slowest surface, making too many errors and failing to construct the points in the more efficient way. Stefanos tamed his shots nicely, hitting 13 winners and 17 unforced errors while Denis fired 14 winners but also 31 unforced errors, mostly from his forehand that couldn't find the range or an open space.
The main problem for the Canadian was his first serve, landing only 42% of the first serve in and losing 40% of the points in his games. He suffered three breaks from nine break points that he gave to Stefanos, which wasn't that bad, but Tsitsipas lost just 11 points on his serve, fending off four out of five break chances to emerge as a winner in straight sets. Stefanos drew first blood in game four when Shapovalov sent a forehand long and the Canadian had to play against two more break points in game six. Denis saved them to stay within one break deficit and out of sudden he earned three break points in game seven that could get him back on the scoreboard. Stefanos saved them all, winning five points in a row to make an important hold and move 5-2 ahead, serving for the set in game nine.
A backhand return winner gave Denis a break point but he was denied by an ace from Tsitsipas who closed the set when Shapovalov touched the net after hitting the ball two points later. Things became even more serious for Denis after a double fault at the start of set number two that cost him the game but he got it back at 1-2 when Stefanos played a poor backhand to lose the serve for the first time. They both served well in five out of six remaining games and the only loose service game came on behalf of Shapovalov who got broken in game seven after a backhand winner from Tsitsipas. The Greek held at love in game eight and he sealed the deal after a forehand error from Denis at 5-4, winning 12 points in a row on serve after that game when he was broken to book the place in the second round in style.
34-year-old Gilles Muller grabbed only his 15th Masters 1000 win (the third on clay) with a 7-5 6-4 triumph over Florian Mayer in an hour and 22 minutes. Muller fired 10 aces and he faced two break points, losing serve on both occasions only to compensate that with four breaks on the other side, enough to close the match in straight sets. Mayer found himself in trouble right from the start, losing serve in game two but pulling it back immediately after taking four points in a row in the following game. Both players served well in the next eight games, with just one deuce and no break points up for grabs, and Muller was more focused in the closing stages, breaking the German in game 12 to seize the opener 7-5.
Muller lost his serve at the start of the second set when he hit a double fault but he didn't have to wait for too long to get it back, leveling the score at 1-1 when Florian sprayed a backhand error in game two. Just like in the opening set, we saw seven good service games on both sides and Mayer had to serve to stay in the match in game 10. Out of sudden, Gilles found some rhythm on the return and he scored a crucial break with a forehand winner to cross the finish line and book his place in the second round.
First round results: