Seven was not the lucky number for Félix Auger-Aliassime.
So will ATP Tour final No. 8, against 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic on the grass in Stuttgart Sunday, be the one?
The 20-year-old Canadian hopes so.
And he can joke about the number of times he’s gone to the finals buffet, only to come back with the soggy shrimp cocktail remnants.
“Of course the opponents are different every time, so it’s always a slightly different scenario. Sometimes it was two finals in a row. This year it was a final at the beginning of the year, and the next only now,” he said after defeating American Sam Querrey 6-4, 7-5 in the semifinals on Saturday.
“But I’m very motivated, and I’m confident I can win and play a good match. I played very well the last few days, so I need to continue the same way, give myself some chances, and we’ll see what happens.”
Serving on point
Auger-Aliassime’s serving has been the key to his three wins in Stuttgart. Never more so than against Querrey, who possesses one of the bigger deliveries in the game.
He matched Querrey with 13 aces. And that 70 per cent second-serve success rate was off the charts; Auger-Aliassime can, at times, struggle to keep it above that base-level 50 per cent rate.
He never faced a break point.
Auger-Aliassime told Open Court that the bounce on grass is a big factor.
“There’s an impact with the (low) bounce that is significant. And to know that before you start, maybe you force the target less. You’re a little more relaxed, I’d say. To know that if you hit the right target at a normal speed for modern tennis – which is about 200 km/h these days – the chances are good that you’ll win the point,” he said.
“I feel good every time on grass – at least, two years ago I served well. The three matches here I served well. So I’ll try to continue that way in the weeks to come,” he added.
Second consecutive final in Stuttgart
The Mercedes Cup wasn’t held in 2020 because of the pandemic, part of the cancellation of the entire grass-court swing including Wimbledon.
So, Auger-Aliassime is the defacto defending finalist.
It was his first tournament back after reaching the final on clay in Lyon, the week before Roland Garros – only to have to miss the main event in 2019 with a leg injury suffered in the tuneup event.
“I feel like overall I’m a better player now. Two years ago was my first real breakthrough on the Tour. I had no expectations; I think I was playing with the innocence of youth. It was great, but I think these days, I’ve been trying to solidify my game and I’ve been doing better. I think I’m serving better. I’m more consistent,” he said.
“Physically, I’m better. So there are a lot of things that I feel are good in my game. But tomorrow is a totally different day, different opponent. So it’s another day.”
Auger-Aliassime is 0-2 against Cilic, who advanced when 22-year-old opponent Jurij Rodionov retired in the second set with an injury.
No change in routine for FAA
Auger-Aliassime cracked up when we asked him if he was thinking of doing something a little funky to change up the “Felix in the Final” vibe.
Quaffing a few German ales Saturday night in Stuttgart? Hitting lefty only in the pre-match warmup?
Maybe a classic Tony Robbins motivational video?
“I’m not too superstitious. But already this year, I feel like a different player,” he said. “Each time it’s a great opportunity. But honestly, where I am now – six, seven, eight nine (finals)? I don’t know! – we’ll see.”