Rotterdam 2020: Auger-Aliassime is tournament’s youngest finalist as he heads to fourth title bid

19-year-old Canadian beat Pablo Carreno Busta to beat Federer’s Rotterdam record

Marianne Bevis
By Marianne Bevis
Felix Auger Aliassime
Felix Auger Aliassime (Photo: Marianne Bevis)

A year after the tall and oh-so-impressive Canadian teenager Felix Auger-Aliassime reached his first final in Rio, he continued to show why he is one of the leading contenders to reach the top of the game by reaching another ATP500 final at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam.

Auger-Aliassime does not turn 20 until August—his birthday, incidentally, is the same day as Roger Federer’s—yet he now has four finals to his name, his second at the 500 level, his first on a hard court.

From a ranking outside the top 100 exactly 12 months ago, the teenager has been setting ‘youngest since’ records with great regularity. This latest run in Rotterdam, indeed, makes him the youngest finalist in the Dutch city since Federer himself in 2001.

As an 18-year-old, the Canadian became the youngest player ranked in the top 25 since Lleyton Hewitt, in 1999.

That Rio run made him the youngest ATP500 finalist in the history of the series [since 2009].

And after also reaching the finals in Lyon and Stuttgart, he became the youngest three-time finalist since Rafael Nadal in 2005.

Certainly 2019 was a break-out year for the Canadian, as he surged into the top 100 and up to No17 by October. For in addition to those three finals, he became the youngest ever semi-finalist at the Miami Masters, having come through qualifying. He also made the semis at Queen’s, the third round at Wimbledon, and this season reached the semis in Adelaide. He also helped Canada to the quarters of the ATP Cup through both singles and doubles efforts.

Now, he is the first Canadian to reach the Rotterdam final, and it came courtesy of the experienced Spanish campaigner Pablo Carreno Busta in a top-quality hour and three-quarters, 7-6(2), 6-4.

Auger-Aliassime dropped just three points in 48 first serves, hit 16 aces, and so consolidated his position as the best server in the tournament: 46 aces, and a first-serve percentage of over 70 percent.

His route through the draw was not easy, either, despite the fact that all the seeds in this half lost relatively early. But Auger-Aliassime had to beat world No34 Jan-Lennard Struff in his opener, Grigor Dimitrov in the second round, and the pugnacious Aljaz Bedene in the quarters, before facing the former top-10 Spaniard.

Auger-Aliassime saved two break points in the first set, and two more in the second, but applied his attacking shot-making through the tie-break to go 4-0 before sealing the set, 7-2.

As the second set unfolded, Carreno Busta began to show signs of the many hours he had already spent on court—three three-setters, the last two going to deciding tie-breaks—and one break in a marathon third game was all that Auger-Aliassime needed, despite showing signs of fatigue himself as he battled with a cough and cold.

He admitted afterwards:

“In the second [set], things got interesting with that long [third] game. I was thinking, ‘If this goes my way, it might be tough for him.’ So, I really pushed to get through.

“Obviously, you know the end is coming if you keep serving well and keep holding your serve… It was not easy, but I came up clutch again, so obviously I am happy with myself.”

On Sunday afternoon, Auger-Aliassime will face the winner of the other semi-final between defending champion and No3 seed Gael Monfils, who is the only remaining seed in the draw, and Filip Krajinovic.

Monfils, who will not now face a seed in the entire tournament, has won 12 of his last 13 matches at Rotterdam, and for the second week in a row, he will face Krajinovic in a semi-final. They met in the same round last week in Montpellier, where Monfils won in straight sets en route to his third Montpellier title.

Like Auger-Aliassime, the No39-ranked Krajinovic has previously reached three ATP finals, so will also be playing for his first title this weekend.

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