In a matchup of veterans who many would argue have left some hardware on the table in their careers, it was Gael Monfils who saved championship point to beat Ivo Karlovic to win the Citi Open.
On a sweltering hot afternoon to cap a blistering week in the nation’s capital (doubles champion Daniel Nestor was unable to stay on court with partner Edouard Roger-Vasselin for the trophy ceremony), Monfils displayed his newfound maturity to come back against the towering Karlovic, 5-7, 7-6 (6), 6-4 for his first ATP 500 title.
Karlovic served for the match at 7-5, 5-4, but got tight under pressure and was broken for the first time all tournament. The tiebreaker went according to serve, forcing Monfils to save a match point at 5-6. The only point won by a returner in the breaker proved to be the most crucial, with Monfils tucking a ball awkwardly at an approaching Karlovic to steal the set. He went on to break a tiring and deflated Karlovic early in the final set and carried that lead through to the end.
Not only was it shockingly the first 500 title of the soon-to-be 30-year-old’s career, it was his first title since February 2014 and just his second in nearly five years — droughts largely due to his 6-19 career record in finals.
It’s been a season of extreme highs and lows for the fan favorite. Monfils missed his home Slam of Roland Garros with a virus that put him in the hospital and then lost his first match back at Wimbledon, but he also made his first Masters 1000 final in over five years at the Monte-Carlo Masters and reached the quarters at the Australian Open, as well as the final in Rotterdam. 26-9 on the year, he now finds himself ninth in the Race to London, bumping Roger Federer down to 10th for the moment.
In the official rankings, Monfils swaps spots with fellow Frenchman Richard Gasquet for 14th, while Karlovic coming up short for a second title in as many weeks means teenager Sascha Zverev cracks the top 25 for the first time. Zverev had a good run to the semifinals in D.C. before coming down with food poisoning before his match against Monfils.
Elsewhere in tennis:
— It was a great week for both finalists in Stanford, as Johanna Konta overcame a severe case of nerves to win her first WTA-level title, beating Venus Williams 7-5, 5-7, 6-2. Konta squandered a double break lead in the second set and struggled to close out the win, but eventually her clean and deep groundstrokes got the job done. Just like Monfils, Konta, 25, moves up four spots in the rankings to 14th (a career-best) and ninth in the year-to-date standings.
Despite the loss, Williams making the final plus her Wimbledon run now has her — at 36 years old — back to sixth in the world, and comfortably so, now that Victoria Azarenka is out for her pregnancy. Given that Simona Halep is defending finalist points in Canada and Cincinnati, along with semifinal points at the U.S. Open, Williams could potentially be in the top five for the first time since the start of the 2011 season.
— Just 10-12 on the year entering Umag, Fabio Fognini became the latest player to show “marriage works,” reaching and winning his first final in a year, topping Andrej Martin in just over an hour.
— 34-year-old Feliciano Lopez won the first clay title of his long career in Gstaad, ditching the rare distinction of being an accomplished Spaniard without a trophy on clay.
— Yanina Wickmayer won both the singles and doubles (with Monica Niculescu) WTA titles in D.C., while Laura Siegemund continued her breakthrough season with the title in Bastad, Sweden.