MONTE CARLO: Stefanos Tsitsipas said he is aiming to finish the season in the world’s top two after successfully defending his Monte Carlo Masters title with a hard-fought victory over Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in Sunday’s final. Third seed Tsitsipas hammered 21 winners and made only 11 unforced errors in the Monaco sunshine to win 6-3, 7-6 (7/3) in an hour and 36 minutes. It was the 23-year-old Greek’s eighth ATP title and first in 11 months as he made the perfect start to the clay-court season. “I can definitely have a great season and maybe finish it in the top two,” said the world number five, whose triumph in Monaco was his fourth tournament success on clay. “This year I really want to have good results on grass and on hard courts because I’m sure I can score big ATP points there. “If I manage to win matches there with as much consistency as on clay, I think I have a great chance of finishing the year in the top two. It’s one of my big goals.” Novak Djokovic, Daniil Medvedev, Alexander Zverev and Rafael Nadal currently sit above Tsitsipas in the ATP rankings. Tsitsipas became the sixth player to win back-to-back Monte Carlo Masters in the Open era, emulating Nadal, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Thomas Muster, Bjorn Borg and Ilie Nastase. “It’s great, especially because the fans were there. It was livelier than last year,” said Tsitsipas, who beat Andrey Rublev in the 2021 final, which was held behind closed doors due the Covid pandemic. He is gearing up for another tilt at the French Open title after losing last year’s final at Roland Garros to Djokovic despite leading by two sets. “I think my tennis is excellent on all surfaces, although it adapts better to clay,” added Tsitsipas. Davidovich Fokina had knocked out world number one Djokovic earlier this week but could not repeat those heroics in his first ATP final, losing for the third time in as many meetings with Tsitsipas. “I always thought about being in the final here one day… I hope to be here again next year,” said Davidovich Fokina, who also reached the quarter-finals last year before retiring injured after one set against Tsitsipas. The world number 46 struck first on Sunday, breaking in the third game, but Tsitsipas hit straight back with a magnificent forehand up the line to level the first set at 2-2. The set remained on serve until game eight, when Tsitsipas broke as Davidovich Fokina fired a backhand into the tramlines. The Greek star wrapped up the opener with a hold to love, capped off by an ace. Tight second set: World number five Tsitsipas carved out two break points in the first game of the second set, and took total control of the final as Davidovich Fokina sent a baseline shot spinning long. The underdog continued to battle hard, though, breaking back in the fourth game as Tsitsipas framed a backhand into the crowd, with 22-year-old Davidovich Fokina waving his arms in delight. But Tsitsipas continued to put the Spaniard under pressure and took his third break point of a marathon game to lead 5-4 and tee up the chance to serve for the title. Tsitsipas produced a nervy game, though, and Davidovich Fokina powered away a smash to extend the match. The second set went into a tie-break, where Tsitsipas raced into a 5-1 lead with the aid of a shot which clipped the net cord and landed on the edge of the sideline. Davidovich Fokina saved one championship point, but Tsitsipas secured the trophy at the second time of asking with a wonderful passing shot after some defiant defence by him.