It’s come down to the final in Antwerp, featuring two North Americans currently on hot streaks. Spirited attempts from veterans Richard Gasquet and Dominic Thiem, the latter of whom is starting to put together a good comeback, fell short in the semifinals. Both Felix Auger-Aliassime and Sebastian Korda are coming off of finals in their previous tournaments, with Auger-Aliassime having taken his second career title last week, and Korda having fallen short of his second. Can Korda continue his late-season rise against the favored Canadian? Or will Felix’s powerful forehand blast him through to another trophy as he seeks a place in the ATP finals?
ATP Antwerp Final Prediction
Felix Auger-Aliassime vs Sebastian Korda
Head-to-head: Auger-Aliassime 1-1 Korda
Auger-Aliassime has been playing some serious tennis recently, not only lodging a title in Florence, but also gaining victories over Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic within the last month. The Florence victory was admittedly a low-level draw, but wins over the two #1s validate his level. Other top wins this year include Jannik Sinner twice, Cameron Norrie three times, and Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas once each.
Auger-Aliassime came through a difficult draw in Rotterdam early in the year to claim his long-awaited first trophy, and has been playing with confidence since and maintaining his place in the top 10. Currently he is in the running for the last spot in Turin, and will surely be motivated to take advantage of a player in Sebastian Korda who is ranked well below him.
Korda, for his part, has just come off of the final in Gijon, where an otherwise decent showing ended at the hands of Andrey Rublev. He’s had a few very good wins on his resume this year, including Auger-Aliassime, and also Carlos Alcaraz, although both of those were on clay. He has also beaten Cameron Norrie on hard court, as his best win on the surface this season. Having rebounded from his loss to Rublev to immediately make another final is a good sign that he took confidence from his performance in Gijon rather than suffering a letdown from disappointment.
The matchup features two tall players with big serves and powerful forehands. Korda is more content to play defense and let opportunities come to him, while Auger-Aliassime relentlessly hits with power both forehand and backhand. Both prefer to play from the baselines, and I would also give the edge at the net to Auger-Aliassime, although I wouldn’t expect either player to come to the net a lot. The match is likely to be a hard-hitting affair from the baseline, with both players trying to avoid the others’ forehand.
The first thing Korda needs to do in order to win is to stay away from the Canadian’s massive forehand. Auger-Aliassime’s backhand is not bad at all, and he particular hits it well when the ball comes in with less pace, but it is not near the level of his forehand. Auger-Aliassime will dictate rallies with powerful forehand whips, and will push the ball into the corners. Korda is a lanky 6’5” and therefore very mobile for his height, so he should be able to do a good job of keeping up with Auger-Aliassime’s side-to-side hitting, but the more chances he gives his opponent to push him around with the forehand, the further and further behind in the point he will get.
The second key is to attack Auger-Aliassime’s second serve. Korda is not likely to get many chances to get a strong racket on the first serve, but his comfort in attacking when he needs to should allow him to pounce on the second serves. This would be particularly effective when returning from the deuce court, as he can aim down the line and try to put a deep return to Auger-Aliassime’s backhand. Having to react quickly to his weaker side could force short balls from the server that Korda can attack cleanly.
The last thing that might help Korda prevail is his tendency to turn defense into offense quickly. Auger-Aliassime has this same ability, but if the Canadian is not careful with his shots as he presses on the attack, he could find them coming back with interest. Korda is not shy to unload into the corners when he gets a moment to set himself, and his relaxed and even-keeled defense, and slow-moving mannerisms, could lull Auger-Aliassime into letting down his own guard on the defensive side. Korda will take advantage of that if it happens.
If Korda can serve well enough and stay away from Auger-Aliassime’s forehand, then he has a chance. He beat Alcaraz on clay earlier this year, which is a bigger accomplishment, although it didn’t come with the nerves of a final. However, it’s hard not to go with the ranking here, as Auger-Aliassime has been playing very well recently and has strong motivation to finish strong in the form of an ATP finals bid.
He should also be the fresher for having had a bye in the first round. Expect him to outhit Korda, and I don’t know that the American will be able to keep up with his pace as well on hard court as he did on clay earlier in the year. But Korda’s confidence and recent level, as well as no particular skills that give Auger-Aliassime a clear advantage, lead me away from calling this in straight sets.
Prediction: Auger-Aliassime in 3
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