Auger-Aliassime joins fellow Canadian Shapovalov in Australian Open quarter-finals
Some 24 hours after Denis Shapovalov reached his first Australian Open men’s singles quarter-final, his friend and compatriot Felix Auger-Aliassime joined him in the last eight.
Auger-Aliassime overcame a fast and furious start from 2018 runner-up Marin Cilic and held on until he could turn things around, in a 2-6, 7-6(7), 6-2 victory , 7-6 (4) on a scorching Monday in Melbourne that challenged even the fittest tennis players in the world.
Fellow Canadian Milos Raonic has reached the quarter-finals or better at the Australian Open on five occasions.
But this is the first time that two Canadians have done so in the same year. And this is the second time in the last three Grand Slam tournaments that they have done so.
It is also the third consecutive Grand Slam tournament in which Auger-Aliassime reached at least the quarter-finals.
Now it gets even tougher as they face the two biggest favorites to win the title among the eight that will remain after Monday’s game.
WATCH | Auger-Aliassime defeats Cilic in 4 sets:
On Wednesday, Auger-Aliassime will face No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev, who survived American Maxime Cressy’s serve-and-volley match – as well as the heat and some physical issues – to advance Monday 6-2 , 7-6 (4), 6-7 (4), 7-5.
Medvedev, ranked second, is trying to become the first man in the Open era to win his second major singles title at the upcoming Grand Slam tournament. He is now potentially three wins away from doing so.
Medvedev was runner-up in Australia last year but got revenge with a win over Novak Djokovic in the US Open final.
Djokovic is not defending his Australian Open title after being expelled on the eve of the first major tournament of the year for failing to meet the country’s strict COVID-19 vaccination criteria.
Shapovalov takes on Nadal
Shapovalov will face 20-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal on Tuesday.
“I’m thrilled for him and thrilled for Canadian tennis. I think we both show that we are not here by chance. We are proving week after week that we are here to stay,” Auger-Aliassime said. .
The Montreal native had managed just one set in three previous losses to Cilic.
The Croatian was almost untouchable in the first set; Auger-Aliassime couldn’t do much.
Compared to the other times I played it, there was less panic on my part.— Felix Auger-Aliassime on Monday’s win over Marin Cilic
The 21-year-old Canadian was also erratic on the forehand – a problem he has spent the last two years on tour trying to solve.
He hung on by his fingernails, waiting for Cilic’s superb level to drop and his own to rise.
“I tried to stay in contact, to find a solution little by little. And I started to serve better in the second set,” Auger-Aliassime said.
“Compared to the other times I played it, there was less panic on my part. I stayed more calm. I believed in myself a little more and I think that’s what made the difference in the end,” he continued. “It’s a nice improvement for me, in various aspects of my game.”
Another player Auger-Aliassime has yet to beat in three tries is Medvedev.
He came closest when they first met, at the National Bank Open in Toronto in 2018 when Auger-Aliassime had just turned 18. Medvedev won in a third-set tiebreaker.
Medvedev also won in straight sets at the US Open last September, in Auger-Aliassime’s first Grand Slam semi-final, and won the tournament.
“We both evolved over the times we played. That first time he wasn’t today’s Medvedev, and I’m not the same either,” Auger-Aliassime said.
“At the US Open, my level was pretty good. I had a set point on my racket in the second set. The match might have been a bit different if I had converted him.”
The two met again in the ATP Cup semi-finals earlier this month in Sydney. It was a 6-4, 6-0 victory for Medvedev.
Canadian men making an impact
Canadian tennis fans have been up until all hours due to the 4 p.m. time difference, watching the two Canadian men reach the final stages of the first Grand Slam tournament of the season.
Auger-Aliassime will be hoping the Melbourne sun – and the win – can be a bit of a distraction from everything going on at home.
“With the very cold winter, pandemic protocols and lockdown, hopefully we can put smiles on people’s faces,” he said.
He also hopes it sends a message about Canadian tennis.
“I hope it gives the idea to people back home that it’s possible. I mean, we did it. I really believe that other Canadians can do it too, even if we weren’t not originally a tennis country,” he said. “I think now we really are. We’ve shown that time and time again.”
Tsitsipas survives Fritz
Fourth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas survived a fourth-round battle with American Taylor Fritz on Monday, coming back twice from a set behind to win 4-6 6-4 4-6 6-3 6-4 .
Just after midnight at the Rod Laver Arena, the Greek broke Fritz’s resistance to face Italian Jannik Sinner, as he will seek to reach the semi-finals here for the third time in his career.
Tsitsipas, 23, looked uncomfortable and flustered at times, but his biggest experience on the big stage finally showed that when he earned the decisive break in the fifth set before claiming victory.
In other matches:
Alize Cornet, in her 17th trip to the Australian Open and 63rd Grand Slam race, recovered after a second-set slump in the hot Melbourne sun to advance to the last eight with a 6- 4, 3-6, 6-4 defeat two-time major champion Simona Halep.
Kaia Kanepi, ranked No. 115, waited until she was 36 to reach the quarter-finals in Australia and finally advanced when, after losing four match points, she upset second seed Aryna Sabalenka 5-7 , 6-2, 7-6 (seven).
American Danielle Collins, a 2019 Australian Open semi-finalist, beat 19th seed Elise Mertens 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 in a nearly three-hour match.
Number 11 Jannik Sinner ended Australia’s last hope in the men’s draw by beating number 32 Alex de Minaur 7-6(3), 6-3, 6-4.