After a 21-month wait, Gael Monfils is an ATP Tour finalist once again.
The Frenchman eased past Laslo Djere 7-5, 6-2 on Saturday to book a championship-match spot at the BNP Paribas Nordic Open. Monfils held his nerve after letting slip an early 4-0 lead in Stockholm, winning eight of the final 10 games from 5-5 in the first set to set a final clash on Sunday with qualifier Pavel Kotov.
Monfils converted five of seven break points he earned and sent down nine aces to overcome Djere in the pair’s maiden Lexus ATP Head2Head meeting. He is now the oldest finalist in Stockholm tournament history at 37-years-old, and will chase his 12th ATP Tour title on Sunday when he meets Kotov for the first time at tour-level.
“It’s great, I feel great. It’s obviously been a long time for me, because I haven’t played so much,” said Monfils on returning to an ATP Tour final at an event where he lifted the trophy in 2011. “A lot of good memories here, it’s obviously great to be back in a place where you won.”
Kotov earlier made it six matches down, one to go, in Stockholm by defeating Miomir Kecmanovic 6-3, 6-4. The No. 109-ranked Kotov powered 25 winners to his opponent’s 17 to back up his career-best quarter-final win against third seed Tallon Griekspoor in style.
“I’m extremely happy and super tired,” said Kotov, who came through two rounds of qualifying prior to taking his place in the main draw in Sweden. “It was my dream to play a final and now it is 2023 and it’s my first one. It’s a super end to the season for me.”
Kotov broke Kecmanovic’s serve decisively midway through each set to seal a 91-minute triumph in the pair’s maiden Lexus ATP Head2Head clash. He has now dropped just one set across his six matches in the Swedish capital.
“I tried to stay very aggressive,” said Kotov of Saturday’s semi-final win. “I tried to make as few mistakes as I could, but still it was a very tough match. I’ve had a great week here, it’s amazing.”
Kotov, who also reached the semi-finals in Marrakech in April, is up 28 spots to No. 81 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings as a result of his run in Stockholm.
Did You Know?
Kotov is the first qualifier to reach an ATP Tour final since Jiri Vesely in 2022 (Dubai) The last qualifier to win a title was Juan Manuel Cerundolo at 2021 Cordoba.