When Felix Auger-Aliassime steps onto court at the ABN AMRO Open in Rotterdam this week, he will be returning to the scene of his first ATP Tour title triumph.
The Canadian arrived at the ATP 500 event in 2022 in confident mood after reaching the quarter-finals at the Australian Open. Determined to have a positive week, Auger-Aliassime quickly found his range in the Netherlands.
“Every week is an opportunity in tennis. Sometimes you lose, sometimes you win. Starting with the first round, I lost the first set [against Egor Gerasimov] but felt I was playing good tennis. Then I actually won 6-2, 6-2 after, if I recall,” said Auger-Aliassime, a star in the first season of Netflix’s Break Point.
“As the week went on, I felt that I was playing better and better. Playing Andy [Murray], one of the best players in the history of our sport, is always special. I had an amazing start and played some of my best tennis of the year. I went up 4-0 and then, as he always does, he broke me back and came back. I was able to close out the first set. And then again the second set started my way and I was able to dictate the match and be really dominant. It was a great win.”
After defeating Murray, Auger-Aliassime moved past Cameron Norrie to set a semi-final clash against Andrey Rublev. The 22-year-old clawed past Rublev 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-2 in what he recalls as the most challenging match of the event.
“The match against Andrey in the semi-finals was the toughest match of the week,” Auger-Aliassime said. “I had a lot of chances to win the first set and I thought I should win it and then I lost the tie-break. We played some good tennis.
“And then the second set he should have won and I won it. I was down 0/40 at some point on my serve. I was able to save that game and break him right after. Then after the third set I felt there was a big momentum shift. I felt good physically and then I just started dominating the play.
Having booked his spot in the final, Auger-Aliassime was determined to clinch his first tour-level title and improve on his 0-8 record in championship matches.
“Every time I lost one of those finals it was tough mentally,” Auger-Aliassime said. “I said this year I am going to try to be a different player. I am going to try to be a better player than I was the year before. That means I am going to try and play a better match when I get to those finals. So I really felt I was able to put all those negative things on the side and really focus on the positives and be optimistic and approach the match with a lot of confidence.”
With the pressure on, Auger-Aliassime rose to the occasion, clinching a 6-4, 6-2 victory against Stefanos Tsitsipas. It is a moment that will live long in his memory.
“When I saw the ball go out on match point, it was a big relief for me and my team. Having my mum, dad on FaceTime, that is what got me emotional,” Auger-Aliassime said.
“I think on the court I was really happy but wasn’t feeling all the emotions, but once you’re close with your people and share a moment with them, that’s when you really start feeling your emotions because you think of the tough moments of losing finals. You think of the work that you put to get there. It is a big relief, the stress goes out at the same time. I think that is why you feel emotions as a player.”
Having clinched three tour-level crowns since, Auger-Aliassime will try to repeat his Rotterdam heroics and add to his trophy collection at the ATP 500.