Felix Saves Match Point, Battles Past Brown In Stuttgart
Entering 2019, #NextGenATP Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime was outside of the Top 100 of the ATP Rankings and he had never made an ATP Tour semi-final. But on Friday, the 18-year-old saved a match point en route to defeating German qualifier Dustin Brown 7-6(3), 6-7(2), 7-6(2) to reach his fourth tour-level semi-final as he continues his pursuit of a maiden ATP Tour title at the MercedesCup.
"A lot of emotions during the match, so many ups and downs, so many good points. Yesterday we were talking about [it being] an exciting match. I think we got it right," Auger-Aliassime said. "It was pretty unbelievable, I don't know how I made it through."
Auger-Aliassime, who struck 30 aces, will play sixth seed and former Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic for a spot in his third tour-level final. The teenager reached the championship match at the Rio Open presented by Claro and the Open Parc Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes Lyon, which both are played on clay. Felix is the youngest player to reach the semi-finals or better on three different surfaces in a season since 1999 when Lleyton Hewitt did it on four surfaces.
"There were moments when it was frustrating but at the end my best chance to get the win was to stay composed and try to find a way to win," Auger-Aliassime said. "That's what I tried to do until the end and it worked, so I'm happy that I was able to stay calm and focussed."
The seventh seed was projected to face reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion Alexander Zverev in the last eight. But Brown, the athletic, shotmaking qualifier upset the top seed on Thursday. And the German did not make it easy on Auger-Aliassime, serving for the match at 5-4 in the third set.
But Brown let slip his one match point when he missed a high forehand volley wide. And on his seventh break point of the match, Felix chased down a lob, quickly turned around and whipped a forehand past the German to earn his first service break.
And that was all the momentum Felix needed. Auger-Aliassime earned two quick mini-breaks in the final-set tie-break — Brown missed a forehand volley long, and the seventh seed then crushed a backhand passing shot for a winner — en route to a 5/0 lead, and he never looked back.
"I had a lot of chances in the second set, but didn't play a good tie-break and he played better, he served good," Auger-Aliassime said. "In the third set I think he was almost better than me. He had break points almost every game. I don't know, I managed to stay together and I was a bit lucky. It went my way."
Not only did the #NextGenATP star win 83 per cent of his first-serve points, but 46.9 per cent of the first serves he made resulted in an ace.
Brown began the week without having won a tour-level match since the 2017 US Open, and he was trying to make his first ATP Tour semi-final since Gstaad in 2016.
Did You Know?
This is the first time Auger-Aliassime has played three tie-breaks in a single match as a professional. Earlier this year at the BNP Paribas Open, he lost a final-set tie-break against Yoshihito Nishioka.