By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – It was an emotional moment at Jockey Club in Gávea yesterday (February 24th) as Serbian Laslo Djere won his first-ever Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) title, winning the final at the 2019 Rio Open. The unseeded Djerje defeated 18-year-old Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-3, 7-5 in Sunday’s final.
“It’s been the week of my dreams. So many things have been achieved here,” exclaimed Djerje after the match. “I’m really happy, excited and emotional now. I’m happy I could push through this match because it was very tough mentally and physically.”
Coming into the Rio Open tournament, the 23-year-old Djerje was the 90th ranked player in the world. He had not won a match on clay all season and in his career had never beaten a top ten player until his victory over world number eight Dominic Thiem in the first round of the Rio Open.
In Sunday’s final, Auger-Aliassime’s inexperience shined through in the first set as the Canadian teenager fell behind from the beginning with three consecutive service breaks.
Meanwhile, Djerje kept Auger-Aliassime on his heels throughout the set with powerful forehands and sharp two-handed backhands.
After losing the first set, Auger-Aliassime broke to start the second set, but Djerje calmly weathered the storm and broke back in the sixth game climbing out of 40/15 hole.
In the 12th and final game, Auger-Aliassime continued to fight back valiantly to save four championship points before finally succumbing to the unseeded Serbian.
In his victory speech, Djerje fought back tears as he dedicated the trophy to his parents, both of whom died from cancer.
“I lost my mom seven years ago so I want to dedicate this one to her…And also to my dad, I lost him two months ago,” said Djerje.
“My parents had the biggest impact on me and, because of them, I am who I am today. I hope they are watching me now.”