Lucky Number 13 for Felix in Basel

This time last year, Felix Auger-Aliassime had lost 8 ATP finals in row and was yet to win a title. Despite his obvious talent, critics were quick to question his mentality in big matches, in a worrying trend of excessive scrutiny which has become apparent in all sports, but particularly in tennis, where each player is on court fighting their battles alone. However, Auger-Aliassime (we’ll call him Felix from now on) has silenced his critics with an exceptional month of tennis, including 86 consecutive service holds, 13 consecutive match wins and, most importantly, 3 consecutive titles. He capped off an excellent month by winning the ATP 500 in Basel, beating the talented Holger Rune 6-3 7-5 in a tricky final. Felix had already won 2 titles this month in Antwerp and Florence and did not lose a single match for the whole of October.

On his way to the title in Basel, Felix turned heads with 2 particularly impressive performances, including a 6-3 6-2 win over World Number One and US Open Champion Carlos Alcaraz and a 6-1 6-0 win over Miomor Kecmanovic, which Felix described as the ‘best match of his life’. He proved to be simply unstoppable this week and will look to keep his momentum going at the Paris Masters, where he has a great chance to qualify for the ATP Finals. Felix faces a crucial 3rd Round encounter with his close rival in the race Taylor Fritz, where a win would see him book his spot at the prestigious event.

Fun fact of the week: Felix Auger-Aliassime was born on 8th August, the same day as Roger Federer. This is now the 11th time someone born on that day has won the title in Basel (Federer 10, Auger-Aliassime 1). Felix has a lot of catching-up to do.

A quick word on Holger Rune, who had let his tennis do the talking this week, after a topsy turvy year which has seen him embroiled in several controversies related to his behaviour. Rune rose to prominence with a great run at Roland Garros, where he beat 2021 finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas on the way to the quarter-finals. Rune then made a lot of enemies in the tennis world with his behaviour after his quarter-final defeat, where he seemingly lied about what happened in the locker room with his opponent Casper Ruud, who is widely recognised as one of the most sportsmanlike and respectful players on tour.

Rune was once again also in the spotlight for the wrong reasons earlier this year, for an alleged use of homophobic slurs and was looking to change the narrative surrounding him with a great week of tennis. Rune was very close to doing so, before launching a torrent of abuse at umpire Mohammed Layhani for what was a very minor mistake, for which Rune received a Code Violation for unsportsmanlike conduct. Rune then took to Twitter to continue to berate Layhani and argue with fans, most of whom were quick to point out his childish behaviour. If Rune wants to be liked on tour, his behaviour will simply have to change, regardless of results.

From a British perspective, Jack Draper continued to enhance his rapidly growing reputation this week, despite not actually recording a win. Draper pushed Carlos Alcaraz all the way in the First Round in Basel, narrowly losing 7-5 in the final set, despite having to call the Doctor, as he looked visibly unwell. He still fought until the very end against the World Number One and will look to finish the year strongly at the Paris Masters and at the ATP NextGen finals. Draper has a great game which can yield results on all surfaces, so 2023 could be a big year for the young man from Sutton.

Meanwhile in Vienna, Daniil Medvedev proved that he is well and truly back again, with an excellent week of tennis which saw him pick up his second title of the season. Medvedev beat Dennis Shapovalov 4-6 6-3 6-2 in a tough final, where Shapovalov looked unplayable at times, but Medvedev, as he so often does, found a way to soak up his opponent’s aggression and come through with the win.

It has been a difficult year for Medvedev, where good results have been hard to come by, but the Russian seems to have peaked just in time for the end of the season. Medvedev had already beaten the likes of Jannik Sinner, Grigor Dimitrov and Dominic Thiem going into the final this in Vienna and has now officially sealed his place at the ATP Finals in November. Medvedev now has a lot of points to defend from last year, where he reached the final of both the Paris Masters and the ATP Finals and will see his ranking take a hit unless he continues his excellent form from last week.

The WTA Finals start this week in Fort Worth, in what promises to be an interesting week of tennis, with plenty of new faces at the top of the women’s game. The likes of Coco Gauff, Caroline Garcia and Jessica Pegula have been rewarded for their consistency this year with a berth at the WTA’s showpiece event and will all be gunning for Iga Swiatek. Swiatek is the clear favourite for the tournament, coming off the back of yet another title in San Diego, where she beat both Pegula and Gauff. However, indoor hard is clearly not Swiatek’s favourite surface, and she will be up against both Coco Gauff and a boisterous home crowd later this week.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the WTA Finals this year is the stark difference between this year’s field and last year’s. Out of those who qualified last year, only Swiatek and Sabalenka have managed to earn a spot again this year. Defending champion Garbine Muguruza has had a torrid year and was nowhere near qualifying, and even Swiatek and Sabalenka didn’t advance past Round Robin last year, so most players will be in unfamiliar territory this year. Coco Gauff is in the unique position of playing both the Singles and Doubles, a feat which has not been achieved for many years now and it will be a thorough examination of her endurance and resilience, particularly at this late stage of the season.

Written by Emre Saridogan