The ATP Finals champion Stefanos Tsitsipas didn't make a great start of the new season, winning only three matches in the first three tournaments and suffering early losses at the Australian Open to Milos Raonic. The Greek was hoping for a better run in Marseille as the defending champion, playing on a high level to lift the fifth ATP trophy from the tenth ATP final.
Stefanos defeated three players from outside the top-50 to set the title clash against another youngster Felix Auger-Aliassime, the Canadian who chased the first ATP crown in the fifth final. A week before, Felix was the finalist in Rotterdam and had to work hard to reach another one in Marseille, struggling against Stefano Travaglia and Pierre-Hugues Herbert and prevailing over Gilles Simon in the semis to move closer to the maiden ATP trophy.
Auger-Aliassime stood no chance against Tsitsipas, though, as the Greek scored a 6-3, 6-4 victory in an hour and 26 minutes, beating a teenager for the second time in four encounters. The better-ranked player lost 16 points in ten service games, fending off four out of five break chances in two shaky service games and mounting the pressure on the other side of the net.
Felix couldn't match those numbers, getting broken three times from nine opportunities offered to Stefanos to finish on the losing side once again in the ATP finals. Tsitsipas tamed his shots nicely, hitting more winners than errors and welcoming +40 mistakes from the other side of the court.
In the closing stages of the opening set and the first couple of games of the second, the Greek lost the ground a bit to spray more unforced errors, regaining confidence and crossing the finish line with more reliable performance in the final 15 minutes.
Having to endure a lot in the first four encounters and with another deep run in Rotterdam in the previous week, Auger-Aliassime didn't have much left in the tank for the decisive battle, feeling even more pressure after losing the first four ATP finals.
The Canadian had a reliable number of service winner but that was the only segment that worked for him on that day, missing equally from both wings and often in the decisive moments. Auger-Aliassime hit 18 unreturned serves in comparison to 14 from Tsitsipas, landing 11 winners from the field while the Greek stayed on ten.
With only 11 forehand and backhand winners on both sides in the entire encounter, it wasn't the most spectacular clash the crowd in Marseille could have seen, but there were still thrilling exchanges and remarkable shots from both young guns.
Auger-Aliassime had a 29-24 lead in the winners department, spoiling that with too many errors from his racquet. Tsitsipas stayed on 12 unforced mistakes (ten from his forehand wing) while Auger-Aliassime counted to 26, finding no rhythm or the way to construct the rallies more efficiently and impose his trokes.
Stefanos had ten forced errors (five from each wing) and Felix added three more to his tally, combined with three double faults that didn't help him either.
Tsitsipas hit 24 winners and 22 errors, standing strong against 29 winners and 42 mistakes from the opponent.
Felix kicked off the clash with a backhand down the line winner before Stefanos grabbed the opening game with four service winners.
The Canadian got his name on the board with a beautiful volley winner in game two, followed by three winners from Tsitsipas in the third game for a 2-1 advantage. The Greek was the first to earn a chance on the return in game four, squandering the opening two break points after failing to return Felix's serves but converting the third thanks to a loose forehand from a teenager who made five mistakes in that game to fall 3-1 behind.
The defending champion held at love to cement the break and settle into a nice rhythm, mainly due to ten mistakes made by his opponent so far, eight in the unforced department. In the sixth game, Felix hit a service winner to fend off a break chance, landing four unreturned serves in total to bring the game home and reduce the deficit to 4-2.
Tsitsipas grabbed the seventh game after a 13-shot rally, moving closer to the finish line and reaching deuce on the return a few minutes later. Auger-Aliassime stayed focused to win the game and stay in the set, hoping to create some damage on Stefanos' serve in the ninth game.
The Greek barely made a couple of errors in the first seven games, increasing that number from 5-2 and offering three break chances to Felix after four errors while serving for the set. With no room for mistakes, Tsitsipas repelled all of them and sealed the opener following a forced error from Auger-Aliassime for a 6-3 after 39 minutes.
They had a similar number of winners in the first part of the match (13-12 for Felix) and the Greek clinched it after spraying 11 mistakes less than his opponent who couldn't find his range. Leaving the first set behind him, Felix fired three service winners for the best start of the second, also taking the first couple of points on the return in game two.
Tsitsipas responded with three winners, bringing the game home after deuce to level the score at 1-1. The Canadian had raised the level in the last 15 minutes, securing the third game with three winners and hoping for a chance on the return in the next couple of games.
Instead of that, Stefanos held with ease in the fourth game and earned three break chances in the next game, looking good to make a decisive move and take the lead. Auger-Aliassime erased them with unreturned serves, spraying more errors in the rest of the game to suffer a break following a backhand crosscourt winner from Stefanos, his first of the match from the left wing.
Out of sudden, a forehand let the Greek down completely in the sixth game, losing serve and keeping Felix alive. Ready to create more damage on the return, Tsitsipas landed two volley winners at 3-3 and scored a break thanks to a terrible backhand from Auger-Aliassime that would cost him dearly.
Unlike in the previous service game, there were no mistakes from Stefanos in the eighth game, blasting three service winners and forcing the Canadian to serve for staying in the match. Felix won that ninth game with two unreturned serves, needing his best return game to prolong the action and stay in contention.
Nonetheless, there were no signs of nerves from Tsitsipas in game ten, holding at 15 to seal the deal and celebrate the fifth ATP crown. In set number two, Auger-Aliassime had more winners (16-12) but also many more mistakes (19-10), playing two loose service games to propel Tsitsipas over the top.