04:19 PM GMT April 17, 2019
In a rematch of this year's Open 13 Provence final, Stefanos Tsitsipas defeated Mikhail Kukushkin 6-3, 7-5 to open his Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters campaign on Wednesday.
The #NextGenATP Greek scored his first win on clay this year, firing 22 winners to advance after one hour and 42 minutes. Following his third win over the Kazakh in as many FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings, Tsitsipas has claimed 18 wins from 25 tour-level matches this season.
Tsitsipas' last win over Kukushkin, in this year's Marseille championship match, proved to be the springboard towards a place in the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings. The two-time ATP Tour titlist claimed his spot in the elite group one week later, following his run to the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship final (l. to Federer). The World No. 8 has risen 63 spots in the past year, having entered Monte-Carlo as a No. 71-ranked qualifier last season.
"There are players out there that want to beat me badly and want the same piece of maybe glory that I want," said Tsitsipas. "So it's going to be very difficult to stay concentrated and focused, but once I get there, I think there is nothing that can stop me, because I feel like I can play really good on clay."
The 20-year-old will be aiming to reach his sixth tour-level quarter-final of the year when he meets Daniil Medvedev in the third round. Tsitsipas owns a 0-3 FedEx ATPHead2Head record against the Russian, who defeated Delray Beach Open champion Radu Albot 6-1, 6-2.
"[Daniil] has a different game than other players. He has a good serve... it can get really aggressive and frustrating to return," said Tsitsipas.
"He's maybe a baseliner who likes to play a bit behind the baseline. He's a good defender for his height... I just have to play every single shot that comes to me as if there is no other player on the other side of the court."
Medvedev now owns a Tour-leading 19 victories this year (19-6) after cruising past Albot in 69 minutes. The 23-year-old converted six of eight break points to advance to the third round for the first time.
Medvedev has dropped only five games in his first two matches at the Monte-Carlo Country Club. In his first-round match, the Russian defeated Joao Sousa of Portugal 6-1, 6-1.
Taylor Fritz needed 86 minutes to upset Diego Schwartzman 6-4, 6-2. The 21-year-old American will meet World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the third round.