(Reuters) – Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime hailed his maiden ATP Tour triumph in Rotterdam on Sunday as a “dream come true”, saying he’s confident it will prove a breakthrough moment in his career.
The 21-year-old Canadian has been tipped as a future Grand Slam winner since he turned professional in 2017, and reached a career-high world ranking of ninth in early January, but before Sunday had no Tour-level trophies in his cabinet.
Before defeating French Open runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece 6-4 6-2 in Rotterdam, Auger-Aliassime had made eight championship finals but lost them all, starting with his first in Rio de Janeiro in 2019.
“It is a big relief. I had doubts, fears at times and I stressed,” said Auger-Aliassime, who added Rafael Nadal’s uncle Toni to his coaching set-up last year.
“But it is now a big relief about not having to hear about these (lost) finals any more,” he told reporters.
“Now I can play even more freely when it comes to the last matches in the tournament.”
With his mother watching from the stands, Auger-Aliassime put in an emphatic performance to take down the 23-year-old Tsitsipas, ranked fourth in the world.
“It is a dream come true,” Auger-Aliassime said. “To be able to serve that well and dominate, it was a special match and one I will remember for a long time.
“It is something I have been thinking about and finally the day comes. It is the most special day of my career.”
Auger-Aliassime has made a strong start to 2022, helping Canada win the men’s season-opening ATP Cup before reaching the quarter-finals at the Australian Open. He already has a tour-leading 12 victories in the year.
“This year I feel more mature. I feel I am a better player than in the years before when I was playing those finals,” Auger-Aliassime added.
“I think I showed it today and proved it to myself and everybody and I think it is a good sign of what is to come. I am not going to stop here, with the possibility to keep proving myself and my worth.”
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)