Denis Shapovalov serving

Photo : @sthlm_open

Denis Shapovalov will look to go back-to-back at the Stockholm Open after beating countryman Félix Auger-Aliassime on Friday to advance to the final.

The defending champion came out swinging and took control of the match early on. Auger-Aliassime was able to play himself into the contest, but could not match Shapovalov’s high-quality hitting as the man from Richmond Hill claimed a 6-4, 7-5 victory.

It was the sixth meeting on the ATP Tour between the two young Canadians. With the win, Shapovalov levelled their head-to-head at 3-all. The win was his first over Auger-Aliassime away from the US Open. Five of their six meetings on the ATP Tour have been decided in straight sets.

The defending champion was the aggressor in the match, ripping 25 winners and seven aces, although he also committed 22 unforced errors. Auger-Aliassime’s serve was his undoing, as he only put 42 percent of his first serves in play and while he won 84 percent of those points, he only managed 37 percent on his second serve.

In the earlier rounds, Auger-Aliassime had been cruising while Shapovalov got off to slow starts. But the roles reversed in the semi-final, with the Montrealer looking sluggish early on as the defending champion broke in the opening game.

Shapovalov looked very much like the player who won the title in 2019 through the early stages of the match and just could not seem to miss as he added a second break to go up 5-2.

Serving for the set, the champion’s level suddenly dropped, opening the door for Auger-Aliassime to mount a comeback. He broke to reclaim the first break and then had double break point as Shapovalov served for the set again at 5-4. But this time the Richmond Hill native escaped, saving both break points before converting his first set point with an incredible swinging forehand volley that painted the line.

The man who won the first set had won all five of their previous meetings, so history was on Shapovalov’s side heading into the second set.

Auger-Aliassime looked to buck the trend when be broke early in the second set for a 3-1 lead, but he was immediately broken back and the defending champion leveled at 3-all.

At 5-all, Shapovalov upped his level and played a perfect return game, blowing Auger-Aliassime off the court and breaking to love, clinching it with a huge crosscourt backhand. Unlike the opening set, he had no trouble serving it out, booking his spot in the final with an ace.

Standing between Shapovalov and a successful title defence will be American Tommy Paul. It will be a first-ever meeting between the pair.