Photo : European Open
The days of Félix Auger-Aliassime’s inability to bring his A-game in finals are starting to seem like a distant nightmare.
Having entered the season 0-8 in finals without so much as a set won, the Canadian has now put himself in control of his own destiny in terms of qualifying for the ATP Finals courtesy of back-to-back title runs, both in dominant fashion.
And given his incredible play this season on indoor hard courts, the surface all the remaining events this season will be played on, the best may be yet to come in 2022.
Here’s what you need to know.
In Case You Missed It: Auger-Aliassime doubles up
Last week marked the third time in Félix Auger-Aliassime’s career that the young Canadian reached finals in consecutive weeks.
He got a better result each time.
In February 2020, he reached the finals of Rotterdam and Marseille back-to-back and lost both. Two years later, he reached the same two finals and split them, winning Rotterdam and losing Marseille.
A week ago, he claimed the title in Florence and seven days later completed the double with his third career title, all in 2022, at the European Open in Antwerp.
Like his run in Florence, Auger-Aliassime rode a dominant serve and dropped just a single set, in the quarter-finals against Dan Evans, on his way to the title. He beat American Sebastian Korda in the final in straight sets.
All three of the Canadians titles have come on indoor hard courts. He leads the ATP tour in titles and match wins (19) indoors in 2022.
Critically, the victory provides some cushion for Auger-Aliassime in the race to qualify for the ATP Finals in Turin. He currently sits in the seventh and final qualifying spot (Novak Djokovic, who is 10th in the race, qualifies automatically having won Wimbledon). He entered last week with a lead of just 90 points over American Taylor Fritz, but the win in Antwerp stretches the lead to 340 with just two weeks of tournaments to go.
Hubert Hurkacz was the top seed in Antwerp, but lost in the quarter-finals to a resurgent Dominic Thiem in a thrilling third-set tiebreak.
Auger-Aliassime’s victory stole the thunder from the final WTA 1000 event of the season, which marked the final WTA main tour tournament for all but the eight singles players and eight doubles teams who qualified for the WTA Finals.
The lone Canadian who will be competing in Fort Worth is Gabriela Dabrowski. She and partner Giuliana Olmos had already booked their spot in the WTA Finals earlier in October, but still reached the quarter-finals in Guadalajara, falling 10-8 in the super tiebreak to Zhaoxuan Yang and Yifan Xu
In singles, the Canadians performed well with three of the four women in the main draw advancing to the second round, including a couple of breakthroughs.
Eugenie Bouchard won her first WTA 1000 match in over three years when she defeated Kayla Day in straight sets in the first round. She then pushed 12th seed Jelena Ostapenko in a tight second-round encounter, although the Latvian did emerge victorious.
Rebecca Marino scored her first victory at a WTA 1000 event outside of Canada, beating American Ann Li in her opener before playing arguably the best match of the tournament against sixth seed Caroline Garcia.
A serving masterclass was almost enough for Marino to score her first Top 10 win as she took the opening set and was two points from victory at 5-4 in the third set tiebreak before Garcia managed to rally and steal the win.
Speaking of epics, Leylah Annie Fernandez had one of her own as she played another match-of-the-tournament candidate in the first round against Belinda Bencic. The Canadian rallied from a break down in the second set and saved five match points in the tiebreak to force a decider, although she still fell in three sets.
Bianca Andreescu had the best result among the Canadian contingent, reaching the third round, upsetting 16th seed Petra Kvitova with an absolute returning clinic, where she lost to the eventual champion Jessica Pegula.
The first round in Guadalajara provided a potential preview of the Billie Jean King Cup next month, with Andreescu and Fernandez facing off with their likely Swiss opponents when Canada plays Switzerland on November 11th in Glasgow.
Pegula’s victory in Guadalajara, beating Maria Sakkari in the final, is the biggest title of her career to-date.
Five spots at the WTA Finals were up for grabs heading into Guadalajara. They were claimed by Coco Gauff, Sakkari, Garcia, Aryna Sabalenka and Daria Kasatkina.
Over in Stockholm on the ATP Tour, Denis Shapovalov’s love affair with the Swedish capital took a hit as he fell in the quarter-finals of the Stockholm Open to Alex de Minaur in straight sets. The Canadian had reached back-to-back finals at the event.
Holger Rune went on to win the title, upsetting Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final.
At the Tennis Cup Napoli, the home fans were treated to an all-Italian final, where Lorenzo Musetti defeated Matteo Berrettini in straight sets.
What to Watch: Felix continues push to Turin
With only two weeks left to qualify for the ATP Finals, every point counts.
There are a pair of ATP 500 events on the schedule this week, one in Basel and one in Vienna.
Félix Auger-Aliassime’s Turin bid will run through Switzerland as he is the third seed in Basel. He has a tricky draw opens against home-favourite Marc-Andrea Huesler, who won his first career title earlier in October.
The second round would not be much easier, with either Alejandro Davidovich Fokina or Miomir Kecmanovic looming. Auger-Aliassime is in the same quarter as a fellow champion from last week, eighth seed Lorenzo Musetti.
World No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz is the top seed in Basel. He and Auger-Aliassime are both in the top half of the draw and could meet in the semifinals.
Casper Ruud is the second seed and has a blockbuster first-round clash with Stan Wawrinka. This edition of the Swiss Indoors is only the second since 2005 not to feature hometown hero Roger Federer, who had initially planned on playing the event but sped up his retirement to September.
In order to guarantee that he will remain in a qualifying spot for Turin, Auger-Aliassime needs to reach at least the semifinals. If he does, he will enter next week’s Paris Masters in a qualifying spot regardless of any other player’s results. He is also just 215 points back of Andrey Rublev for sixth, which would provide even more cushion.
The two players Auger-Aliassime has to worry about most, Taylor Fritz and Hubert Hurkacz, are both competing in Vienna, as is Rublev and fifth-place Daniil Medvedev.
Some good news for Auger-Aliassime is that Fritz and Hurkacz are both in the same half, meaning only one could reach the finals which limits their ability to chase down the Canadian. They are both in the bottom half of the draw with second seed Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Denis Shapovalov also finds himself in the bottom half of the Vienna draw. He meets wildcard Jurij Rodionov in his opener and could do his countryman a big favour in round two as his likely opponent is Fritz.
Keep an eye on the very top of the Vienna draw as it provides a cluster of intriguing first-round matches.
Top seed Daniil Medvedev will meet Nikoloz Basilashvili in the first round and would meet the winner between Dominic Thiem and Tommy Paul in round two. Another first-round battle pits Rublev against Diego Schwartzman.
There are no more events on the WTA Tour apart from next week’s WTA Finals.
However, there is a WTA 125 event full of top-tier Canadian talent in Tampico, Mexico.
Leylah Annie Fernandez and Rebecca Marino are both going to be getting some extra preparation in ahead of the Billie Jean King Cup Finals. Fernandez is the third seed, while Marino is eighth. They were drawn together and could meet in the quarter-finals.
Joining her Billie Jean King Cup teammates is Carol Zhao, who could meet second seed Marie Bouzkova in the second round.
Rounding out the Canadian contingent are Eugenie Bouchard and Bianca Jolie Fernandez. The latter meets fifth seed Magda Linette in the first round. Bouchard and the younger Fernandez could meet in round two.
The Fernandez sisters are also pairing up in doubles. Marino is playing alongside Ingrid Neel.
Under the Radar: Free tennis in Toronto
The ITF circuit was back in Canada last week with the Challenger Banque Nationale Saguenay in Quebec.
Katherine Sebov very nearly brought the trophy home for the host nation, as she reached the final and took the opening set before Karman Thandi rallied for a three-set win.
Sebov upset both top seed Moyuka Uchijima and third seed Arianne Hartono on her way to the final.
Marina Stakusic also reached the quarter-finals in Saguenay, having upset the sixth seed Emina Bektas in a third-set tiebreak.
Back on the clay of Europe, Canada’s Steven Diez reached the final of the M25 ITF event in Girona, Spain, losing to Oriol Roca Batalla in straight sets. It was the Canadian’s first final since February 2021.
Another ITF W60 event, the Tevlin Challenger, is taking place this week in Toronto at Sobeys Stadium and features a large contingent of Canadian talent including the Saguenay runner-up Sebov.
Admission to the event is free all week.
Three of Canada’s Davis Cup team members are competing at an ATP Challenger event this week, with Vasek Pospisil, Alexis Galarneau, and Gabriel Diallo all in action in Las Vegas.
You can follow the Canadians in action every week here.