Auger-Aliassime Wins European Open With A Stellar Performance

Felix Auger-Aliassime (photo: Belga/European Open)

ANTWERP/WASHINGTON, October 23, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Felix Auger-Aliassime and Sebastian Korda showed they have the same qualities to make a very good rivalry. Maybe, one day, it will even be a great one. After all, they’re both the same age, both are very likable and share a sense of mutual respect toward each other, and the level of their tennis is maturing at the same rate.

However, as Sunday’s result in the final of the European Open indoor hard-court event in Antwerp showed, in their third career meeting, Auger-Aliassime is slightly ahead of his North American foe.

The second-seeded Auger-Aliassime confidently won his second straight ATP Tour 250 title in as many weeks after defeating the 36th-ranked Korda 6-3, 6-4, in a stellar performance. A week ago, the 22-year-old Canadian beat another American opponent, J.J. Wolf, while Korda finished runner-up in Gijón, Spain. This week, in the capital city of the Fleming region of Belgium, it was the World No. 10 Auger-Aliassime’s moment to shine once again. By winning the Antwerp title, he has now won eight straight Tour matches – six of them in straight sets – and it was his third career ATP Tour singles titles. All of them have been won this year.

“It’s an amazing feeling winning back-to-back tournaments and to win for the first time here in Antwerp,” Auger-Aliassime said during a brief on-court interview after securing the title, “especially against a player like Sebi, who is a fantastic player and one of the greats to come.

“In a tough week, really, I had to play many tough matches – tough physically – so, to push through and win today was amazing. I’m super thrilled and happy to get another title.”

Auger-Aliassime put his game face on from the time he and Korda posed for a pre-match photo after the coin toss with chair umpire Fergus Murphy all the way through to the last ball of the one-hour, 24 minute match before a nearly-sold out Lotto Arena. He began by firing three of his seven aces during his first service game and took off from there.

Soon, Auger-Aliassime struck first with a brilliant forehand return for his seventh of 25 winners that broke Korda in the sixth game for a 4-2 lead. He consolidated the break at love to further the margin of his lead. After Korda saved a break point with a powerful backhand winner to hold during a competitive 12-point eighth game, Auger-Aliassime put away the 35-minute first set 6-3, at love, with a flawless serving performance that saw him win all but three of his service points while facing no break points. His execution and timing throughout the opening set was magnificent and he took advantage of nearly every opportunity that came his way.

At the conclusion of the first set, Korda took a medical timeout to receive treatment on an ailing right shoulder. It would remain to be seen whether the Bradenton, Fla. native would be able to recover sufficiently to turn the match around.

While Korda gained two break points against Auger-Aliassime in the fourth game, the Canadian No. 1 remained aggressive and did not blink. He saved both of them and managed to hold his serve for 2-all, winning four straight points with his sixth ace and a service winner. Then, Auger-Aliassime broke Korda’s serve to go ahead 3-2 after the American whiffed a backhand return straight into the net. It was a quiet, clinched-fist moment of celebration that the TV cameras caught of Auger-Aliasime as he walked back to his bench. Soon, he consolidated the break upon his return to the Center Court for a 4-2 lead.

Next, after Korda held at love, Auger-Aliassime put himself within a game of winning back-to-back titles with a solid hold for 5-3. Finally, the Montreal native served out the victory at love, triumphing after one final 16-shot flourish. A fan held aloft a sign reading Allez Felix! in celebration. It was a very appropriate one.

By winning back-to-back finals, in Florence and Antwerp, the talented Canadian has given himself some breathing room – 340 points between him and Turin hopeful Taylor Fritz in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin. Auger-Aliassime currently occupies the last qualifying spot for next month’s season finale and looks very likely to make his debut at the Nitto ATP Finals.

During the trophy ceremony, Korda spoke first. Despite his second straight runner-up finish, he remained upbeat and cordial. He said: “Back to back finals is a great achievement. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get it done today, but we’ll be back in the next coming weeks and hopefully we [will] go one step further.”

Then, when it was his turn to speak, Auger-Aliassime gave a shout out to his team, including his coach and physio, as well as his family. “It’s another great week,” he said. “I played some great tennis and really fought hard to stand here in front of you today. So, big shoutout and thank you to my team. My coach and my physio [are] here and my whole family that came all week. So, thank you very much. It’s been a great week.”

Auger-Aliassime gave props to the appreciative crowd on hand for Sunday’s final as well as throughout the week in the seventh edition of the European Open.

“It wouldn’t be so special, of course [if we weren’t] in front of all of you,” he said. “That’s why we play tennis, to play in front of big numbers of people like this on Centre Court. So, than. You all for coming in big numbers this week.”

Flying Dutchmen Van de Zandschulp and Griekspoor win first title together

Dutch duo Botic van de Zandschulp and Tallon Griekspoor came into the European Open with an 0-4 tour-level record as a doubles team. On Sunday, they won their first ATP Tour title together after rallying to beat No. 2 seeds Rohan Bopanna of India and Matwe Middelkoop of the Netherlands, 3-6, 6-3, 10-5, in 66 minutes.

After making their debut as a team in 2019 at the Ismaning Challenger in Germany, they played together on Tour for the first time earlier this year in Rotterdam. This week, van de Zandschulp, 27, and Griekspoor, 26, who were both knocked out of the singles draw in the first round – No. 7 seed van de Zandschulp by Dominic Stricker and Griekspoor by No. 5 seed Daniel Evans – upset top-seeded Colombian team Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah, 6-2, 7-5.

Then, they followed it with a quarterfinal win over Xavier Malisse of Belgium and Diego Schwartzman of Argentina, 7-6 (1), 7-6 (7). In Saturday’s semifinal round, the Dutch pair swept No. 4 seeds Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin, both of France, 6-3, 6-4 – breaking their 10-match winning streak – to reach their first title match. They lost just one set all week en route to their title triumph.

Against Bopanna and Middelkoop, who are ranked 15th as a team and came into the final with a 19-11 win-loss record and recently won a title at Tel Aviv, van de Zandschulp and Griekspoor combined to serve eight aces an won 75 percent of their first 75 percent of their first-serve points. They were outpointed 57-55 but prevailed in the match tie-break, in which they broke away from 3-all, garnered the last four points and won on their first match-point opportunity.

The victory was worth €34,250 for the winning team to divide plus they earned 250 ATP Rankings points each.

By the numbers

After losing his first eight ATP Tour finals, Felix Auger-Aliassime has since won three of his last four title matches. All three of his trophy wins have come in straight sets. Sunday’s victory over Sebastian Korda, was Auger-Aliassime’s second in three career meetings. Earlier this season, Korda beat Auger-Aliassime, 6-2, 6-2, at Estoril, Portugal on clay.

“Quotable …”

“You got me good last time we played, so Im happy I was able to get a win over you. You’re such a great player, so keep going like this and good luck to you and your team for the rest of the year.”

Felix Auger-Aliassime, during his trophy ceremony remarks in praising finalist Sebastian Korda.