Stefanos Tsitsipas cemented himself as a premier contender for the Roland Garros title after his latest triumph on clay in Lyon.
The Greek beat Brit Cam Norrie 6-3 6-3 in Sunday’s final to win his second title of the season, after winning the Monte Carlo Masters crown last month.
The victory stretches his lead in the ATP Race and gives him a tour-leading 33 match victories in 2021 – 16 of which have come on clay.
Tsitsipas became the latest title winner on a busy weekend of finals across Europe.
A day earlier, American teenage star Coco Gauff hoisted the trophy in Parma, Paula Badosa continued her breakout season with victory in Belgrade and Casper Ruud powered to the Geneva title.
All four players have built excellent clay-court records leading into Roland Garros, which begins on Sunday in Paris.
Tsitsipas, Ruud among French favourites
Norrie is another player firming as a threat on clay, with the British lefty thumping Karen Khachanov 6-1 6-1 in the Lyon semifinals to reach his second clay-court final in the past month.
But Tsitsipas needed just 69 minutes to end his run in the final, a result boosting his season win-loss record to 33-8.
"It's a great result. It was a good week for me, played good tennis, played at the top of my game in some of the matches,” said Tsitsipas.
“For sure I can move to the French Open with a little bit more confidence and get to play more matches."
Ruud, meanwhile, needed just one break of serve to overcome Denis Shapovalov in the Geneva final, winning 7-6(6) 6-4 for his second career ATP title.
The Norwegian, who recently made his top-20 debut, is now 15-4 on clay this year after reaching three straight semifinals on the surface – in Monte Carlo, Munich and Madrid – prior to Geneva.
“It feels great that I’ve been playing well lately and reaching the later stages in my past tournaments,” Ruud said.
“It is a big confidence-booster ahead of Roland Garros.
“I hope I can do well, and hopefully the form I’ve been showing recently can affect the other players and they will think that it will be a tough challenge if they play me. That’s also the goal.”
Gauff, Badosa continue rise
In Parma, Gauff completed a dream week by winning both the singles and doubles titles.
She won her second career singles title thanks to a 6-1 6-3 victory over Wang Qiang, a result seeing her make her top-25 debut in the WTA rankings.
She then combined with fellow American Caty McNally to win the doubles crown – their third trophy as a pair.
2nd WTA singles title and 3rd doubles title!!! All in one day 🤝😁 pic.twitter.com/hC7F7yOEvc— Coco Gauff (@CocoGauff) May 22, 2021
It has been a brilliant fortnight in Italy for the 17-year-old Gauff, who also advanced to the semifinals of the WTA 1000 event in Rome.
"It definitely means a lot, especially on clay, which is not really a surface I feel like people associate with me," said Gauff, who improved her clay-court record to 12-3 this year.
"Especially when we got to the semifinals, you’re thinking about it, like, ‘It would be pretty cool to win both the singles and doubles titles’.
“Happy that I was able to do that today."
Badosa is making similar strides in the rankings, rising 10 places to a career-high mark of world No.34.
That came following her maiden WTA title in Belgrade, which she secured over an injured Ana Konjuh.
Badosa was leading the Croatian qualifier 6-2 2-0 before Konjuh succumbed to a right hip injury.
"I’m super happy, and I’m super proud of myself. All this week, I think I played at a very good level and I was feeling quite well,” said Badosa, who also reached semifinals on clay in Charleston and Madrid.
"I think I played an amazing first set. Ana’s an amazing player, I’m so sorry for her we have to finish like this, but the part that I was playing, I think it was quite good so I’m happy with the level."