Fans of Félix Auger-Aliassime were hoping it would be eighth time lucky for the Canadian in ATP finals on Sunday but the 20-year-old will have to wait a little longer for his first piece of silverware after losing 7-6(2), 6-3 to Croatia’s Marin Cilic in the final of the MercedesCup in Stuttgart, Germany.
Prior to this match on the grass courts of Tennis Club Weissenhof, Auger-Aliassime had reached the finals of Rio de Janeiro, Lyon and this event in Stuttgart in 2019, Cologne, Marseille and Rotterdam in 2020, and Melbourne already in 2021. His route to Sunday’s showpiece event included victories over South Africa’s Lloyd Harris, France’s Ugo Humbert and Sam Querrey of the United States.
Meanwhile, Cilic, formerly ranked No. 3 (January 2018) on the ATP Tour and now at No. 47, had seen off the challenges of Germany’s Rudolf Molleker, Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia, Auger-Aliassime’s compatriot and the event’s top seed Denis Shapovalov, as well as Jurij Rodionov of Austria.
This was the third meeting between Auger-Aliassime and Cilic with their first bout coming in Washington DC in 2019 when the Croatian won in straight sets 6-3, 6-4. Next came a clash at the ATP Masters 1000 event in Paris last year as Cilic extended his head-to-head record against the Canadian to 2-0 thanks to a 6-0, 3-6, 6-3 victory.
In Sunday’s final, the first set featured 12 break point opportunities split between both players before one of them finally made their move, with Cilic grasping his opportunity after going 40:15 up on Auger-Aliassime’s serve. However, his lead would be short lived as the Canadian broke back immediately to send the first set into a tiebreak. There, Cilic wasted no time in crafting a dominant 6-2 lead, which he would convert to claim the set 7-6(2).
In contrast, the second set featured just one break point in its entirety. Unfortunately, it fell the way of the Croatian who, up 40:0 on Auger-Aliassime’s serve, converted to take a 5-3 lead. Having won 77% of his first serve points and 64% on his second serve, Cilic wasn’t about to repeat the same mistake he made in the first set by allowing Auger-Aliassime straight back into the argument. Instead, he coolly and calmly served his way to the title – the 19th of his career and first since 2018.