Damien Kayat previews the Nitto ATP Finals match between Felix Auger-Aliassime and Taylor Fritz on Thursday, 17 November 2022.
ATP Tour 2022
Pala Alpitour, Turin, Italy (Indoor Hardcourt)
Selected Round-Robin Match – 17th November
Felix Auger-Aliassime (5) vs Taylor Fritz (8)
This should be an absolutely thrilling tie with a spot in the semi-finals at stake. Casper Rudd is assured of qualification while Rafa Nadal has been eliminated after looking completely jaded this year. The winner of this match will join Rudd and go one step closer towards winning this prestigious end-of-year title.
Felix Auger-Aliassime (5) – To Win (59/100)
This has been a bizarre yet fulfilling year for 22-year-old Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime. He largely underachieved at Grand Slam level (minus a quarterfinal run at the Aussie Open). But he managed to overcome an even bigger obstacle by finally winning his maiden ATP title in Rotterdam. It broke a shocking sequence of final defeats that were threatening to cripple his confidence. And winning has proved addictive for the Canadian. After the Davis Cup, Auger-Aliassime went on an absolutely devastating run on indoor hardcourts, winning three consecutive events. This included a title run in Basel where he dispatched of World Number One Carlos Alcaraz.
He made a losing start to the week (going down to an inspired Casper Rudd in two tight sets). But he showed his mettle with a must-win victory against a beleaguered Rafa Nadal. To be fair to Nadal, the Spanish superstar threw everything at the Canadian in that first-set. He created a number of break-point opportunities and looked far sharper than he had in that Fritz encounter. But the Canadian’s booming serve came up trumps when it mattered. He served 15 aces and won 81% of his first-serve points. He just wore Nadal down with his massive forehand and eventually won in straight sets. Next up for the Canadian is the similarly power-based Taylor Fritz.
Taylor Fritz (8) – To Win (13/10)
Fritz comes into this match with a little bit of negative momentum. Like Auger-Aliassime, he dispatched of Nadal in straight-sets in his opening match. He seemed to catch the burly Spainard somewhat cold, whizzing the ball past him in almost comical fashion. These lightning-fast surfaces seemed ‘Taylor-made’ for him (I couldn’t resist). But the 2nd match was a far different affair. Casper Rudd is in exceptional physical condition and went toe-to-toe with the big-serving Amercian.
The Rudd match panned out much how I expected. The Norwegian gradually wore Fritz down in the extended rallies. And those pesky errors started to creep into play for the American (particularly on the forehand wing). But he just hung in there with some absolutely fabulous grit and commitment. Some of those volleys- especially one diving effort- were reminiscent of Boris Becker in his prime. He trailed 5-1 in the 3rd set tie-break and managed to somehow reel it back to 6-6 (saving two match-points in the process). But his resistance crumbled thereafter, and he was finally. One wonders how much that defeat will have mentally drained the American.
Verdict: Auger-Aliassime to win in straight-sets at 29/20-
Fritz leads their head-to-head 1-0, winning at this year’s ATP Cup in three tight sets. This is really going to boil down to an absolute slugfest. Both players need their first serves to operate at peak effectiveness. And they both lean heavily on their forehands (as most contemporary players do).
But I was slighly concerned with how many errors Fritz committed on that wing in the Rudd defeat. Fritz isn’t necessarily gifted with a plan B. I think the Canadian is growing into this event and could win this match quite comfortably.