Czech teenager Jakub Mensik on Friday became the youngest ATP finalist since Carlos Alcaraz three years ago when he defeated French veteran Gael Monfils at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open. Mensik, 18, followed up his quarter-final win over fifth-ranked Andrey Rublev by seeing off 37-year-old Monfils 6-4, 1-6, 6-3.
At 18 years and five months, Mensik is the fifth youngest ATP finalist since 2005 and youngest since Alcaraz went to the Umag championship match in 2021. Mensik, who will rise from 116 in the world to inside the top 100 next week, will take on Karen Khachanov in today’s final.
“It’s amazing. It’s been an incredible week so far,” said Mensik who has also defeated former world number one and three-time major winner Andy Murray in Doha. The Qatar Open is just his third main draw event following breakout runs to the third round of the 2023 US Open and a second-round appearance at the Australian Open last month.
“Gael played unbelievable. I know it is tough to play against him, especially with his good movement. For me every point I have to play my best game,” said Mensik. “I have to say this performance was one of the best in my entire life. I am so glad I reached this level in the semis, so hopefully tomorrow I play like this. An amazing feeling with my first ATP final. I am speechless.”
Monfils was the Doha champion in 2018. Mensik was not even born when the crowd-pleasing French player made his maiden appearance at the tournament in 2005. “Gael is one of the biggest showmen on court. He is a great guy. The rallies were so fun with him,” added Mensik who saved nine of 12 break points patiently carved out by Monfils.
He produced another impressive performance against Monfils. He recovered from a dip in the second set, crushing the ball with clean timing off both wings in the third set to triumph after one hour and 48 minutes.
Mensik struck the ball well throughout against Monfils, who tried to use the drop shot to disrupt the Czech’s rhythm. At 4-3 in the third-set, Mensik gained the decisive break when he nailed a backhand winner down the line on break point. The 18-year-old, who saved 9/12 break points, then held serve to triumph. Following his win, Mensik let out a roar before he and Monfils shared a warm embrace at the net.
Earlier, Russian Khachanov defeated Australia’s Alexei Popyrin 7-6 (14/12), 6-2 in his semi-final. Khachanov will be chasing his sixth tour-level title today.
The big-hitting second seed rallied from a break down in the first set and saved three set points in the tie-break before converting on his fifth opportunity to move ahead. He then saved all four break points he faced in the second set to advance after one hour and 48 minutes. “It is really nice to play with a full crowd and energy,” Khachanov said. “It was a very emotional and tight tie-break. He was up and then I was up. One point made the difference and I think winning the first set was crucial to winning the match.”
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