Marin Cilic cited his experience as the key to sealing a first ATP Tour title in three years against Felix Auger-Aliassime at the Stuttgart Open on Sunday. 

The Croatian, who did not drop a set all week, hit seven aces on his way to a 7-6 (7-2) 6-3 win in one hour and 50 minutes. 

At 32, Cilic is the third-oldest Stuttgart champion in the Open Era (since April 1968) behind Roger Federer, 36, and Barry Phillips-Moore, 33.

It brought up his 19th ATP Tour title and he believes the knowledge he has amassed in his career was crucial to overcoming an opponent 12 years his junior. 

"Experience plays a big part, especially on grass," he said in quotes reported on the ATP website. 

"The conditions can be difficult; the court plays quite quickly. I felt this was a good chance for me to give it my all, keep my intensity. 

"Even though some games were up and others down, that was a big part of my victory today.

"It was a very important win. I played two semi-finals and did not win a title since 2018, also on grass at Queen’s. 

"Winning here brings out joy for me, good confidence and a good feeling.

"I felt like I was playing good tennis these last few weeks. Winning here is a great way for me to continue my form and it gives me a good sign for Queen's and Wimbledon. 

"It is a joy to win my first title with my family here for the first time at any tournament."

Auger-Aliassime, who has now lost all eight ATP Tour finals he has contested, had no complaints with the result. 

"Today, I am not facing a final, I am facing Marin Cilic; it is two different things," he said. 

"There have been times when I have not played my best then I felt I was not playing well, but this time around, I felt like it was close. 

"Overall, though, I think he was the better player."

Marin Cilic is relishing the chance to win a 19th career title when he takes on Felix Auger-Aliassime in Sunday's Stuttgart Open final.

The world number 47 was 6-3 1-0 up against Jurij Rodionov in Saturday's semi-final when his opponent retired due to injury.

Cilic eliminated top seed Denis Shapovalov in the quarter-finals and now faces a tough test against world number 21 Auger-Aliassime, who beat Sam Querrey in the other semi.

"I'm feeling really good and very excited to be in the final after a period that I didn't reach a final," said Cilic, who lost to Roger Federer in the second round of the French Open.

"I think this has been a very positive week. I have played good tennis and served really well.

"Considering it is a shorter season, with one week less, for me, it was great to play this week. Losing in Paris to Roger Federer gave me more time to prepare for the grass."

The former Wimbledon runner-up and 2014 US Open champion added: "I haven't enjoyed being at a tournament this much in a long period of time, because it is the first time my son, wife and I are together at one tournament.

"The set-up in Stuttgart is really nice. There is a lot of grass and open space around the hotel for my son to play and it is so much fun having them around."

Auger-Aliassime did not face a single break point and hit seven aces in his 6-4 7-5 victory over Querrey, which lasted an hour and 19 minutes.

The Canadian third seed won 16 of his 18 first-service points in the second set and has yet to drop a set in this week's tournament.

It is the second time Auger-Aliassime has reached the Stuttgart final, having finished runner-up to Matteo Berrettini two years ago.

The 20-year-old has lost all seven of his ATP Tour singles finals to date so is longing to be a champion for the first time, even as he tries to stay cool about the prospect.

"You have to be focused all the time," Auger-Aliassime said. "Things can turn around quickly but I was able to do well today.

"There are no expectations. There will be the final tomorrow and other tournaments are coming up and I will try to keep my level as much as I can."

Top seed Denis Shapovalov failed to reach the semi-finals of the Stuttgart Open as his busy Friday ended with defeat to Marin Cilic.

Shapovalov had earlier completed a rain-delayed match with Feliciano Lopez, winning in three sets.

However, the Canadian was beaten in two tight sets by former US Open champion Cilic, who prevailed 7-5 7-6 (7-3).

"I felt I was applying a little more pressure during that first set and I capitalised on the couple of break points, which was definitely big, just to give me a bit of extra momentum," Cilic said.

"I also had the two match points at the end of the second set, didn't convert them, but played a really good tie-break. You always have to expect tough battles against top guys like Denis and it was like that today."

Cilic will face Jurij Rodionov after the Austrian came from behind to stun fourth seed Alex de Minaur, a player ranked 120 places above him, 3-6 6-3 7-6 (7-4).

Shapovalov's Canadian compatriot Felix Auger Aliassime remains in the draw, though, going through to the last four with a 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (10-8) win over Ugo Humbert in which he hit 17 aces.

Auger Aliassime, the lone seed left in the tournament, is hoping to repeat his run to the final in 2019. Standing in his way will be the sizeable figure of Sam Querrey, who ended wild card Dominic Stephan Stricker's superb tournament.

Teenager Stricker had match point at 5-4 in the second set but Querrey fought back to progress 6-7 (4-7) 7-6 (7-4) 6-3. Querrey won all 14 of his first-serve points in the final set.

Teenager Dominic Stephan Stricker produced the shock of the day at the Stuttgart Open as he knocked out second seed Hubert Hurkacz in the round of 16.

The 18-year-old wildcard, ranked 335 in the world, claimed a straight sets victory courtesy of tie-breaks, as had been the case in his previous outing against Radu Albot.

And his reward for a 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (7-5) win over a man placed 315 places higher than him in the men's rankings is a quarter-final tie against Sam Querrey.

The American sealed his passage into the last eight by beating qualifier James Duckworth 6-4 7-6 (9-7) on Thursday.

Top seed Denis Shapovalov's place in the next round remains in doubt going into Friday after the Canadians clash with Feliciano Lopez was cut short by rain with both men having taken a set.

The winner of that final set will face former world number three Marin Cilic, who comfortably beat Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-3 6-2.

Another Canadian also remains in the draw in the form of third-seeded Felix Auger-Aliassime after his 6-3 7-6 (7-4) win over Lloyd Harris.

There, he will face sixth seed Ugo Humbert after his straight sets win over wildcard entry Yannick Hanfmann.

The quarter-final line-up is completed by fourth seed Alex de Minaur, who beat compatriot Jordan Thompson, and Jurij Rodionov, whose progress was aided by Peter Gojowczyk's first-set retirement.

Adrian Mannarino succumbed to a surprise Stuttgart Open first-round loss at the hands of James Duckworth on Wednesday.

The seventh-seeded Frenchman, knocked out by Aljaz Bedene in the first round at Roland Garros, was beaten 6-3 6-2 by a player ranked 65 places lower than him, with Duckworth outside the world's top 100.

Home hopes Yannick Hanfmann and Peter Gojowczyk progressed, the latter coming from a set down to beat Ilya Ivashka 5-7 6-4 6-2, but there was no such joy for fellow German Dominik Koepfer after he fell to wildcard Jurij Rodionov.

Elsewhere in the draw, there were wins for Feliciano Lopez, Sam Querrey, Dominic Stephan Stricker and Jordan Thompson. 

 

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