Jabeur and Ruud triumph, stars hit Monte Carlo

An action-packed weekend witnessed plenty of trophy lifts. The Road to Roland-Garros now meanders to Monte Carlo...

© Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Alex Sharp

Recovery and rejuvenation have been a strong theme the past couple of days as a collection of major names returned to title-winning form.

Sliding and gliding over at the Monte-Carlo Masters, the clay court swing is in full force in Europe too.

Jabeur's stateside joy

The smile is back for the Minister of Happiness.

One rally during the Charleston Open final aptly summarised Ons Jabeur's timely resurgence, including a front-facing tweener and knifed backhand slice pass.

The Tunisian's response was a defiant clenched fist and cheeky grin, an ominous sign for title rivals in Paris. Make sure you watch this trademark Ons point below…

In a rematch of the 2022 final, world No.4 Jabeur captured her first title of a stop-start season 7-6(6), 6-4 over defending champion Belinda Bencic.

It was a final brimming with quality, both players indicating strong clay campaigns ahead.

Bencic, having to complete a rain-delayed semi-final facing Jessica Pegula on Sunday too, offered up the appropriate words for close-friend Jabeur during the trophy presentation.

"I'm very glad you're back, tennis is amazing with you," said the Swiss. "It's a pain playing against you, but for tennis you are great."

Ruud relishes new beginning

Just like Jabeur, Casper Ruud reached two Grand Slam finals in 2022, only to fall just short of major glory.

Just like Jabeur, the Norwegian has struggled for momentum in 2023, but has also turned a corner on the clay.

Ruud arrived in Estorial 5-6 for the current season, but bounced back with some gruelling victories for his 10th career trophy and first since Gstaad last July. 

“Obviously it’s been some months since I won a tournament," the 24-year-old told the ATP, clinching the title 6-2, 7-6(3) over Miomir Kecmanovic.

"I haven’t really experienced a ‘down’ period in my tennis career yet, it hasn’t been what I’ve wanted to achieve.

"Hopefully I have shaken that off, it’s a new surface, a new beginning in a way. It’s a very fun part of the season for me. I feel I’ve had the perfect start to the clay season."

Mission accomplished in Houston

With an ardent home crowd behind him, Frances Tiafoe played some fireworks tennis to land his first title since 2018.

The American declared "I’m on a mission" last week, which came to fruition as the 25-year-old completed four matches in two days to lift the silverware.

A hard-fought 7-6(1), 7-6(6) scoreline across the net from Tomas Martin Etcheverry scooped his second ATP silverware.

Patience has been the key for Tiafoe, up to a career-high world No.11 as reward, breaking through to the winner's circle following four successive final defeats within 2018-22.

Maria and Carballes Baena take top honour

Tatjana Maria retained her Bogota crown, posting a 12th straight victory at Copa Colsanitas for her third career title.

The German, a Wimbledon semi-finalist last summer, prevailed past unseeded American Peyton Stearns 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 in the silverware showdown.

It was a successful week for Roberto Carballes Baena in Marrakech too.

The Spaniard had to dig deep to fend off seeded Maxime Cressy, Tallon Griekspoor and Dan Evans in three sets before rallying 4-6, 7-6(3), 6-2 past Alexandre Muller in the final.

In doing so, the 30-year-old claimed the Grand Prix Hassan II trophy and cracked the Top 50 for the very first time up at No.49.

Top seeds in town

The road to Roland-Garros rolls into glamorous surroundings at the Monte-Carlo Masters.

World No.1 Novak Djokovic, competing for the first time since Dubai, will be chasing a record-extending 39th Masters title. The 22-time Grand Slam champion opens his account against qualifier Ivan Gakhov. 

Second seed Stefanos Tsitsipas begins his quest for a three-peat in the Principality with a tricky opener facing Frenchman Benjamin Bonzi.

The likes of Daniil Medvedev, Ruud and Jannik Sinner begin their campaigns on Wednesday.

Results on the board already

Marquee names have been bursting into action in Monte Carlo.

2018-19 Roland-Garros finalist Dominic Thiem appears to be clicking again, winning the battle of the brushstroke single-handed backhands 6-1, 6-4 over Richard Gasquet. Thiem's recent resurgence will be scrutinised in a meeting with Top 10 teenager Holger Rune.

Elsewhere, Alex de Minaur took down former world No.1 Andy Murray 6-1, 6-3 and 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka reeled in Griekspoor 5-7, 6-3, 6-4. Next up for the three-time major winner is eighth seed Taylor Fritz.

Matteo Berrettini enjoyed a straight sets triumph over Cressy to earn a battle with Francisco Cerundolo, who posted an impressive 6-3, 6-4 passage past world No.14 Cameron Norrie.

© Corinne Dubreuil / FFT