The World No. 48 is the lowest-ranked Monte-Carlo finalist since No. 53 Hicham Arazi in 2001, advancing after one hour and 35 minutes. He converted six of 12 break points en route to victory. Lajovic is only the second player to reach his first tour-level final at an ATP Masters 1000 event since 2013. Lajovic’s countryman, Filip Krajinovic, achieved the feat at the 2017 Rolex Paris Masters final (l. to Sock).
“It was an incredible match today,” said Lajovic. “I had the worst nightmare, falling down 5-1. But I won 10 games in a row, so I was able to find my rhythm and my game. In windy conditions like today, it was impossible to play real tennis and in the end I was able to hit my forehands better than him. I’m still unaware of my achievement in Monte-Carlo.”
Lajovic had never won four consecutive tour-level matches before arriving at the Monte-Carlo Country Club this week. But with his fifth straight win, the 28-year-old is one win away from his first ATP Tour title.
“Today was the toughest match, for sure, so far from many aspects: mentally, physically, and I played a player who is playing very tough, tricky tennis,” added Lajovic. “The conditions today with the wind were incredibly hard, so we were struggling a lot, both. But right now I’m really enjoying the moment.”
Standing between Lajovic and the trophy will be Fabio Fognini. He has never met the Italian at the tour-level.
It was a windy day on Court Rainier III, with Medvedev playing consistently from the baseline and taking advantage of early Lajovic errors to storm to a 5-1 lead. When presented with an opportunity, the Russian transitioned to net well, appearing in good position to reach his maiden Masters 1000 final.
But his serving, typically a strength, became his undoing. Medvedev won just 42 per cent of his first serve points. By comparison, he earned 70 per cent of his first-serve points in his quarter-final win against World No. 1 Novak Djokovic.
“I think he started playing better and better gradually, and when we were at 5-3 and 5-4, he didn’t miss a point,” said Medvedev. “I think that was what happened. If I look back in hindsight, then when I was up 5-1 or 5-2, I could have taken advantage of some chances and finished it up then. Then we never know how the match could have ended. So I have nothing to say, because this is not what happened and I have to congratulate him.
“I kept on fighting. I saw Munar come back, I saw Fognini and Coric too, and we know that on clay at any time the match can turn around. The proof is that I was up 5-1 in the first set and things actually changed. So I was saying to myself that probably at any point I will be able to turn it around. But it didn’t happen.”
Later in the first set and increasingly as the match wore on, Lajovic found his range, hitting with depth on his returns to earn opportunities to attack with his forehand. After Lajovic levelled the first set at 5-5, Medvedev had only managed to land 39 per cent of his first serves. Varying the pace on his backhand, the Serbian claimed his third consecutive break to serve for the set at 6-5 and converted his third set point with a deep cross-court forehand.
Lajovic rode the momentum into the second set, charging into a 4-0 lead with great court coverage and anticipation to claim his 10th straight game. The unseeded Serbian continued to find success on his forehand and, shortly after Medvedev held serve to end the run of 10 games against him, Lajovic claimed victory with a deep backhand slice as the 10th seed fired a backhand beyond the baseline.
Medvedev was bidding to reach his first Masters 1000 final following back-to-back wins against Top 10 opposition. The 23-year-old defeated sixth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas and World No. 1 Novak Djokovic to reach the last four, extending his tour-leading win total in 2019 to 21 (21-7).