It was a week Dusan Lajovic will never forget. Not even a toe blister could stop the Serbian from producing countless moments of magic, en route to his first ATP Tour final at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters.
On Saturday, Lajovic exclaimed, “I’m going to cut that toe off if it means I can play tomorrow.”
Thankfully, the 28-year-old did not need to resort to extreme measures to face Fabio Fognini in the championship, and despite falling 6-3, 6-4, he believes it could be a career-altering experience. It’s not often that a first ATP Masters 1000 final is also a first tour-level final, and Lajovic knows a week like that could change everything.
“It was my first time in a final, so a great experience for me,” said Lajovic. “It’s many more positives than negatives this week, so there is no reason to be sad even if I don’t feel as happy as the whole week today. But I know that it’s my best result, and I just hope that I can repeat this result in some other event, as well, in the future.
“Fabio is three years older than me, so he’s playing his best tennis right now. That’s also a good thing for me. I can see that it’s never too late. I’m happy for him that he won the title. On the other hand, I’m also happy that I had this experience this week and played a final at a Masters.”
The World No. 48 defeated Malek Jaziri, David Goffin, Dominic Thiem, Lorenzo Sonego and Daniil Medvedev to record five straight tour-level victories for the first time in his career. Not only did he secure his first win over a Top 5 opponent with a 6-3, 6-3 rout of Thiem, but he did not drop a set all week entering the final.
But, despite his great success, Lajovic’s date with destiny was put on hold. He was bidding to become the first player to win his maiden ATP Tour title at a Masters 1000 event since Albert Portas in Hamburg in 2001 and just the second Serbian to ever raise a Masters 1000 shield, joining Novak Djokovic. He admits that while his performance on Sunday was not good enough to lift the trophy, all credit goes to Fognini.
“I was feeling on the court that I had to work much harder than him to win the points,” added Lajovic. “I think this was the key. He was pretty stable and solid from both sides, moving well. And when I was on and when I was aggressive, I was able to make points and put him under pressure. But at times, my game was just off. I had a lot of unforced errors.
“I was under the pressure of the moment, and all together, I think he was much better player today. Congrats to him… He just knows how to play tennis on clay. And he beat Rafa yesterday in two sets, so he showed that he can produce top quality tennis. He deserved to win the title here.
“He was a couple times in a position where he was able to get some good results and break into the Top 10, so I think that this will be a huge boost, because he never won a Masters 1000 before. So I think if he keeps playing like this, for sure he’s gonna break into the Top 10.”
While Fognini is pushing towards the Top 10 breakthrough that Lajovic refers to, rising to a career-high No. 12 in the ATP Rankings, the Serbian is projected to enjoy a breakthrough of his own. He ascends 24 spots to a career-high No. 24 on Monday.
Lajovic is right back to work next week at the Hungarian Open in Budapest. He opens his campaign on Tuesday against wild card Mate Valkusz, with a potential second-round clash against countryman Laslo Djere in the cards.