Auger-Aliassime Flourishes In Florence Spotlight

Felix Auger-Aliassime (photo: Giampiero Sposito/UniCredit Firenze Open)

FLORENCE/WASHINGTON, October 16, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

The UniCredit Firenze Open wrapped up the ATP Tour’s return to Tuscany for the first time since 1994 with a flourish Sunday afternoon.

World No. 13 and top seed Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada garnered his second career ATP Tour title in his 11th tour-level final with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over 75th-ranked American upstart J.J. Wolf, who enjoyed a career week in Florence – playing in his first tour-level final – that no doubt will boost the confidence of both players going forward.

In lifting the glass trophy given to him by Italian great Nicola Pietrangeli in the capital city of the Tuscany region of Italy, the 22-year-old Auger-Aliassime will return to the Top 10 on the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings. He has moved ahead of Taylor Fritz at No. 7 on the Pepperstone ATP Live Race to Turin – he has a 180 point lead over the American No. 1 – while also improving to 21-7 against players ranked outside of the Top 50 this season. It was the Canadian No. 1’s tour-tying 15th win indoors in 2022, which earlier saw him win his first ATP Tour singles title at Rotterdam last February.

“I’m really happy. It never gets old. Winning, it always feels like the first time,” Auger-Aliassime said in his on-court interview prior to the trophy ceremony before an appreciative crowd that filled 3,000-seat Palazzo Wanny.

“It’s so special to win, especially here. I had a fantastic week and it’s been amazing.

“I had a really good start first game and then a bit of a tight first service game. But then after I felt like I was playing really good tennis, serving unbelievable. Probably the best I served all week. So, Im just really happy right now.”

The Florence title match began with a trio of service breaks – three in three games – in which Wolf had trouble placing his first serve in play and Auger-Aliassime dominated points on the American’s second serve. The Canadian No. 1 settled down – handling the pressure of the moment best – and began winning points in his own service games through a variety of means. Although Wolf avoided a double-break disaster by fighting off three break points to hold in the seventh game, Auger-Aliassime maintained his steady demeanor to win the 47-minute opening set on his first set-point three games later.

Then, in the second set, while Wolf dug himself out of early trouble by saving two break points in his opening service game to win a pressure-filled 12-point game, Auger-Aliassime broke through with a love break – his third break of the final – to push ahead 3-2. The reaction of the two players as they went to their respective benches for the fifth-game changeover spoke volumes: the cool Aliassime was quiet and composed while the pugnacious Wolf was screaming at his bench.

Soon, Auger-Aliassime consolidated the break at love and pressured Wolf with another break point in the American’s next service game. Although Wolf held serve, it was a minor road block for Auger-Aliassime, who held for 5-3 needing only to hold serve once more to secure the Florence title. He did just that, wrapping up the set and the one-hour and 41-minute match by firing his 11th ace and 24th winner on match point. Auger-Aliassime celebrated by beaming a big  smile directed toward his bench, then pumped his fists in the air.

“Every final is tough. It’s the two best players of the week,” Auger-Aliassime admitted. “Of course, you try to win more than you lose the finals and that’s why I came out here today ready to give everything. We had some very tough rallies in the second set, feeling tough physically. But you keep pushing, trying to keep the level high.

“But there’s no magic. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but of course I’m really happy because I came here as the first seed. I was the favorite in all of my matches on paper. It’s never an easy position. So, to come out and win my four matches with confidence and conviction, it’s really good for my confidence.”

Meanwhile, despite his runner-up finish, Wolf will rise 19 places on the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings to No. 56, a new career-high for the 23-year-old Cincinnati, Ohio resident. The former Ohio State collegiate star is now the 10th-ranked American man. No doubt, he will learn from the experience of playing in his first final.

“All credit to Felix,” Wolf said in accepting his runner-up prize. “[Despite losing] I still had a lot of fun out here. It was an amazing experience for me.”

Mahut and Roger-Vasselin end perfect week with doubles title

Unseeded French team Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin extended their winning streak to eight matches across all levels after defeating No. 3 seeds Ivan Dodig of Croatia and American Austin Krajicek, 7-6 (4), 6-3, in 91 minutes to win the Florence doubles title Sunday afternoon.

Two weeks ago, Mahut and Roger-Vasselin won a Challenger title in Orleans, France. This week, they marched to four straight wins – including a first-round upset of top seeds Wesley Koolhof of the Netherlands and Neal Skupski of Great Britain on the first day of play – without losing a set.


Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin (photo: Giampiero Sposito)

Mahut and Roger-Vasselin saved three of four break points they faced – including a pair in the opening set – and broke Dodig and Krajicek, who won the title at Lyon earlier this season, twice in three tries. The Frenchmen rallied from a break down in the second set to secure the title. They outpointed their opponents 68-51.

“We had a great week on the court and off the court,” Mahut said, quoted by the ATP Tour website. “It was the first time for me in this city and I enjoyed every moment. I think it was a great event for the first year. Everything was perfect. It is a great achievement to have an eight title together.”

The winners, who last won a tour-level crown at Tokyo in 2019, split €32,340 in first-place prize money and each received 250 ATP Rankings points.

By the numbers

Felix Auger-Aliassime will return to the Top 10 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings at No. 10 following his title run in Florence.

“Quotable …”

“A final is always difficult. You have to play your best tennis because it’s the two best players of the week.”

– Top seed Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada, during his on-court interview following his semifinal victory over Lorenzo Musetti of Italy on Saturday.