Felix Auger-Aliassime (left) holds up his runner-up trophy and smiles next to Andrey Rublev, holding his champions trophy in Madrid.

Photo : Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour

Félix Auger-Aliassime was so close to becoming the first Canadian man to win a Masters 1000 singles title, but Andrey Rublev had other ideas in the Mutua Madrid Open final on Sunday. 

Despite taking the opening set, the Canadian could not hold off his feisty opponent, eventual falling in his first Masters 1000 final 4-6, 7-5, 7-5. 

Canadian men are now 0-6 in Masters 1000 singles finals. Bianca Andreescu remains the most recent and only Canadian, male or female, to win a 1000-level singles title. 

It was a wild week for Auger-Aliassime, who had two opponents retire and got a free pass in the quarter-finals, but also had an impressive victory over the in-form Casper Ruud in the round of 16. Still, it was his first time winning three matches in a row since winning the title in Basel last October. 

In his biggest final to-date, Auger-Aliassime did not back down as he fired 36 winners to his opponent’s 25, although he had slightly more unforced errors, 20 to 15. Even though the Canadian is more renowned for his serve, it was Rublev having an easier go winning 77 per cent of his first serve points. He only faced four break points, all in the first set, while creating 11 chances on Auger-Aliassime’s serve while winning 64 per cent of second serve return points. 

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Auger-Aliassime could not have asked for a much better start as Rublev opened with a nightmare game, double-faulting twice to hand the Canadian a break to love to kick off proceedings.  

Everything was clicking for Auger-Aliassime as he showed no signs of nerves in the biggest singles final of his career to-date, winning eight of the first nine points and then taking advantage of another poor game from his opponent to stretch his lead to 4-1. 

As the set went along, Rublev started to find his range and was able to counter the Canadian’s big-hitting. He reclaimed one of the breaks, saved a set point serving at 3-5 with an ace, and then had a break point to level as Auger-Aliassime looked to serve out the set. But the Montrealer used his big hitting to erase the threat and close it out. 

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The second set was a slugfest, with the two men exchange big shots from the baseline but not creating many opportunities to land a critical blow. 

Rublev had one break point chance midway through the set but misfired a forehand. Having not faced a break point in any of his six service games, he applied the pressure when Auger-Aliassime served to stay in the set at 5-6. A couple of big returns from the seventh seed drew errors that allowed him to break and send the match to a decider. 

All the momentum was with Rublev in the third set as he cruised on serve and applied constant pressure when it was the Canadian’s turn. However, Auger-Aliassime was able to pull out his best shots when facing break points, firing off winners, huge ground strokes, and big serves whenever Rublev had a look, including one hold from 15-40 down at 1-2 where he won four consecutive points with unreturned serves. 

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Finally, at the last time of asking before a deciding set tiebreak, Auger-Aliassime could not hold on any longer. He sent a backhand long to give Rublev a match point at 5-6, 30-40 and double-faulted to surrender the match and the title. 

Despite the loss, Auger-Aliassime will return to the Top 20 in the ATP rankings on Monday.